Understanding the nature of ‘anonymity’

Asked about Herman Cain’s sexual-harassment controversy, congressional Republicans generally take one of two lines: (1) noting the allegations is racist; or (2) the allegations lack merit because we don’t know the accusers.

This morning, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) pushed the latter.

“I just don’t see anonymous sources as fair against a candidate,” Hutchison said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If someone has a real concern, they should come out and say it, but nothing that I’ve heard, in the press that I’ve read, is other than off-color remarks.”

Saying she has only seen “anonymous sources” accusing the presidential hopeful of having spoken badly, the senator said she believed the allegations were simply a result of Cain’s challengers “trying to dredge things up.”

A few too many Republicans seem confused about the meaning of some basic words here.

It’s really not that complicated. In the 1990s, some women who worked for Cain believed he made inappropriate and sexually-suggestive remarks in the workplace. They didn’t hide behind anonymity; they came forward to raise their concerns. Cain’s trade organization was concerned enough about the merit of the allegations that it gave the women a fair amount of money, and as part of the payment, forced the accusers to agree not to speak about the controversy.

They’re not “anonymous sources.” Politico, which broke the story, knows their names. So does Cain and the National Restaurant Association. In one instance, last week, the Republican candidate was confronted directly with one of the accuser’s names, at which point he refused to comment.

Have Republicans forgotten what “anonymous” means?