The Herman Cain Defense Center
The Media Research Center goes all in to defend Cain against sexual harassment allegations. Is MRC chief Brent Bozell simply performing a favor for his "personal friend"?
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center's aggressive defense of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain from allegations of sexual harassment while he haded the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s makes sense when examined from one largely ignored viewpoint: MRC chief Brent Bozell is a close friend of Cain.
Bozell set the tone for how his organization would defend Cain in an Oct. 31 MRC press release:
Sadly, Herman Cain’s predictions have come true. In May he stated that he was ‘ready for the same high-tech lynching that [Clarence Thomas] went through -- for the good of this country.’ That's what Politico is doing with its unsubstantiated and thoroughly hypocritical hit piece against him. Anyone in the press that gives this story oxygen is equally hypocritical.
Bozell also attacked one of the the reporters who broke the story of the harassment allegations against Cain, Ken Vogel of Politico, by declaring that he "used to work for the George Soros-funded Center for Public Integrity in Washington." But look who used to head CPI: John Solomon, the former editor of the definitely-not-liberal Washington Times. And as ConWebWatch has documented, the hatchet-job series on Al Gore WorldNetDaily published in 2000 -- which drew a libel lawsuit filed by a Gore acquittance that resulted in an out-of-court settlement in which WND admitted that numerous claims made in the series were not backed up by the facts or completely unsubstantiated -- originated as a CPI project.
The most significant thing about Bozell's press release, though, came at the very end:
Note: Herman Cain is both the former National Chairman for the Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute, and a personal friend of Brent Bozell.
Remember that disclaimer -- it never appears in the MRC's subsequent defenses of Cain, even though this business and personal relationship seems to be what's driving the defense. The MRC didn't even feel the need to note this in a press release the next day, in which Bozell ranted that "It is indefensible how the networks were quick to defend Bill Clinton by not reporting public accusations of rape, inappropriate physical contact, and explicit behavior and are quick to attack Herman Cain on the basis of weak allegations by anonymous sources."
The MRC's NewsBusters blog has also been a full participant in the MRC's defense strategy. In an Oct. 31 post, Mark Finkelstein complained that a reporter for Politico, Jonathan Martin, "was being evasive about the details of the allegations" in his appearance on "Morning Joe," going on to further attack the story's "sketchy generalities." Finkelstein went on to grumble that "as for the details in the Politico story, they are as ambiguous as can be," adding, "Politico is going to have to do better than that. Martin's evasiveness today was telling."
Finkelstein repeated that theme in a Nov. 1 post on that day's "Morning Joe," which featured another Politico staffer, Mike Allen. Finkelstein huffed that rather than detail the publication's 'vague allegation that Herman Cain had made gestures "that were not overtly sexual but that made women uncomfortable,' Allen's telling first instinct was to point to the story's popularity on a social networking site."
Finkelstein didn't mention that nobody has contradicted Politico's claims about Cain, despite the names of the two women not being disclosed. Nor did he mention that many of the details he's seeking are bound by confidentiality clauses in the settlement agreement that Cain's accusers reached with the National Restaurant Association.
The MRC then moved on to the next phase of defense: the Clinton Equivocation, the right-wing art of minimizing bad news about a conservative by comparing it to something done allegedly first and worse during the Clinton administration. A Nov. 1 MRC "Media Reality Check" by Scott Whitlock and Rich Noyes followed the Clinton Equivocation textbook by complaining that "the networks" have "extensively" covered the Cain allegations, while "Three women publicly accused Bill Clinton of far more serious instances of sexual harassment in the 1990s, but the networks all but ignored them. The coverage that did exist was often skeptical, insulting and hostile, an astonishing double standard."
In a Nov. 6 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard highlighted criticism of Cain coverage by, of all people, Kathleen Willey, who according to Sheppard accused Bill Clinton of "sexually assaulting her back in 1993." Sheppard huffily wrote that "everyone involved should be asking themselves why unnamed, unspecific accusers create such a media firestorm today when women that actually stepped forward with far more serious charges in the '90s were almost totally ignored by comparison." As noted above, Sheppard's claim that the charges against Clinton were "almost totally ignored" is completely false.
Sheppard tried to do an extension of the Clinton Equivocation by creating an Obama Equivocation corollary, as exemplified by the headlines of two of his NewsBusters posts:
These two items are the height of lazy "research": all Sheppard did is search the Nexis database for -- well, we don't know what since Sheppard didn't disclose how he did his searches.
Sheppard further displays his laziness via a note at the end of the MSNBC item: "Readers are advised that MSNBC doesn't transcribe all of its programs." In other words, Sheppard is falsely portraying his search results as encompassing all of MSNBC when he concedes that it covers only what's located in Nexis, and he apparently doesn't even know exactly which MSNBC shows are located there.
The MRC then moved on to the next stage: Despite complaining about the supposedly "skeptical, insulting and hostile" coverage of Clinton's accusers, it exhibited that very same hostility toward Cain's accusers.
Leading the way was MRC vice president Dan Gainor, who used his Twitter account to baselessly smear the accusers as gold-diggers. Gainor retweeted a message about a Washington Post article stating that one of the accusers would like to speak publicly about the case; Gainor added: "Or make a book deal?":
Gainor retweeted another message about one accuser, adding, "Book deals take time":
In one tweet, Gainor even used the #golddigger hashtag in writing, "Free Five Guys lunch (DC area only w me) to person who can guess exact amount of book deal advance for Cain accuser":
Gainor also wrote of one accuser: "So if she gets a book deal, does she have to refund cash to NRA?"
Noel Sheppard joined in personally attacking Bialek in a Nov. 8 NewsBusters post:
CNN's Piers Morgan on Monday did the first interview with Herman Cain's accuser, but failed to ask Sharon Bialek - who was in the company of her liberal activist attorney Gloria Allred - any questions about her two bankruptcies, the paternity lawsuit her former husband filed against her shortly after their child was born, or exactly why she was terminated by the National Restaurant Association a month before the alleged actions by Cain took place.
We don't recall Sheppard -- or, for that matter, anyone else at the MRC -- insisting that the pasts of Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey or Juanita Broaddrick be discussed upon the disclosure of their allegations against Clinton. Indeed, in the above-mentioned Willey post, Sheppard made no mention of her numerous credibility problems, which include repeatedly changing her story about what purportedly happened with Clinton to actually lying to the FBI. Even independent counsel Robert Ray, who was in charge at the time of what had begun as the Whitewater investigation, didn't find Willey credible.
MRC Culture & Media Institute managing editor Matt Philbin also went the gold-digger route in weighing in on Bialek, who appeared at a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred. Philbin tweeted, in Allred's supposed voice, "It's very brave for my client to set herself up for a lucrative book deal."
The MRC's "do as we say, not as we do" attitude on trashing Cain's accusers is not surprising, given that it repeatedly contradicts itself on its self-proclaimed ethics in order to remain in service to its right-wing agenda.
Such flexible ethics and viciousness may not be what Cain is seeking in an organization making such an enthusiastic defense of him, but it might be what he deserves.