Finally, a woman willing to expose her name, face and story to the public has come forward to accuse GOP candidate Herman Cain of sexually inappropriate – and possibly criminal– behavior.
While this latest accusation may put the final nail in the coffin of the Cain campaign, polling reveals that there is reason to believe that this could also go another way. After at least two anonymous accusations of sexual harassment, Cain’s popularity suffered a small dent as his most loyal supporters prefer to take the word of the candidate they think they know rather than accept the accusations of witnesses unwilling to personally come forward and subject their story to the light of public scrutiny.
But now that an alleged victim has taken that brave step into the spotlight, things will be different, yes?
Don’t be so sure.
It’s not always simply a matter of being willing to step into the ring of public political theater to level the charges that set off a full-blown scandal. It is also a matter of how one takes that step.
In this instance, I cannot imagine a more ridiculous way for Sharon Bialek, Cain’s latest accuser, to enter into the national dialogue than to hold a press conference at the Friar’s Club in New York while standing next to Gloria Allred.
Of all the venues in New York City, Bialek and her attorney somehow arrived at the conclusion that the Friar’s Club—a show business institution and the very site where generations of male comics have told raunchy, sexist jokes, both on-stage and while sitting around with cigars at lunch relayed stories of their own sexual exploits—was the “right” place for Bialek to make her revelation. Allred might as well have begun the presser with “But seriously folks, I just flew in from the National Enquirer and boy are my arms tired.”
Are we to believe there was no more appropriate venue in Manhattan to accuse a front-running candidate for the nation’s highest office of committing a criminal, sexual attack?
And once Bialek chose to come forward with her accusations, why turn to the one lawyer in the America that immediately leads so many of us to raise an eyebrow and wonder if the entire endeavor has but one, overriding goal in mind—to cash in on the publicity that will envelope the scandal she is selling.
When we last saw Attorney Gloria Allred, she was standing next to porn star Ginger Lee as Lee told her story of sexy Facebook and Twitter exchanges with disgraced Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner. Lee was accused of nothing, nor had she broken any laws. So, why the need for an attorney or a press conference? I think we can easily arrive at the answer to that question. While Congressman Weiner’s behavior may not have stood up to what we expect of national leaders, he did not harass Lee, nor did he do anything in which Lee did not gladly participate. And yet, there stood the porn star and Gloria Allred making a spectacle out of themselves for whatever payoff awaited them.
Before that, it was Rachel Uchitel who would go on to get a hefty payment from Tiger Woods. And who knows how much she earned selling her story to publications? The list of Allred clients, who face no legal jeopardy but somehow show up in front of the microphones with this lawyer by their side, goes on and on and on.
Not surprisingly, the conservative media immediately attempted to make the story about Allred.
But, it wasn’t just the right-wing press. This from New York magazine on Allred:
After all, she last bubbled up most vividly in the public imagination for her work on behalf of several of the more notorious Tiger Woods mistresses: That scandal was, to steal a line from Allred herself, her idea of a stimulus package. Not only did she help Joslyn James, Rachel Uchitel, and another Woods paramour get large cash settlements, but she also represented his kindergarten teacher, who decided to sue for what she says was an inaccurate story he’d repeated about his childhood. Allred supposedly isn’t seeking money on Bialek’s behalf, but given her history, it’s easy for detractors to be cynical.
When attempting to establish credibility, it simply doesn’t help when the public perceives a lawyer as someone who never met a television camera she didn’t like and who is best known for helping scorned women accomplish nice paydays for having the dish on an entertainer, politician, or the media’s focus of the day.
While Bialek claims that she is not ‘in it for the money’ —and maybe she isn’t— I cannot think of a worse way to make the public believe that her intentions are to step up to her civic duty rather than gain a big payday as a result of becoming this week’s Gennifer Flowers.
In a game of “he said-she said,” it is all about credibility. In most instances of sexual harassment, the offense often does not take place in view of witnesses. There are two people who are involved, typically in a private setting, and only these two people know what really happened. So when the accusations begin to fly in the court of public opinion, credibility is everything.
As for Cain, while everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise, I tend to believe the reporting done by Politico on this story. I strongly suspect that the anonymous accusers are telling the truth. I also respect their not wanting to expose their lives to the media circus that would inevitably mess with their lives and the lives of their families.
I also have a strong suspicion that Sharon Bialek is telling the truth and, if so, I appreciate her willingness to step forward. However, when attacking a candidate for the highest office in the land, could Bialek not manage to bring a bit more seriousness and credibility to the setting?
Not with Gloria Allred by her side.