It’s a time-honored strategy in politics: When bad news strikes, hit the airwaves, tell your story — and hope that it sticks and limits the damage.
But for that strategy to work the story has to be consistent. Herman Cain was anything but in a series of interviews Monday, leaving some to wonder if another shoe in the burgeoning sexual harassment scandal is going to drop.
Cain started the day by not talking about the subject at all during a forum at the American Enterprise Institute, saying he wanted to stick to the topic at hand, his "9-9-9" tax plan. Then, in his first interview, with Fox News, he called the allegations that he harassed two employees of the National Restaurant Assn. when he was its chief executive “false” and “baseless.” He also, as he would later claim during a speech at the National Press Club, said he was unaware of any settlement struck between the association and either of the women.
Cain told Bloomberg News that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had investigated allegations that he had harassed an employee and found no merit to the claim — a key detail, if true, that Cain did not mention in subsequent interviews.
Indeed, by the time Cain sat down with Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, that assertion regarding the EEOC had vanished and Cain’s story had changed. Now, he said he recalled a situation involving one employee where Cain said he made a gesture comparing her height to his wife’s height, a gesture that employee apparently found offensive, he said. (Watch video below.)
He also said he now recalled a settlement with the woman, a “termination settlement” as he termed it. The situation was resolved “without a major payout,” he said.
“Maybe three months’ salary. I don’t remember. It might have been two months. I do remember my general counsel saying we didn’t pay all of the money they demanded,” Cain told Van Susteren.
The charges, he said, had been found baseless he said, but now he couldn’t recall who had investigated them.
Cain muddied the waters further in an interview with PBS’ Judy Woodruff in which, after being asked whether he had engaged in any inappropriate behavior, he said he hadn’t but “it’s in the eye of the person that thinks that maybe I crossed the line.”
According to ABC News, Cain is continuing his media blitz Tuesday, hitting, among others, CNN and Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, giving him more opportunities to find a version of events that he can stay with.
Karl Rove, the Republican strategist, said on Fox News that Cain’s shifting story wasn’t helping him—and suggested that Cain needs the National Restaurant Assn. to provide further details of the alleged incidents.
“You'd rather be where you're going to be at the beginning rather than be drawn there by the events," he said. “Right now he has a good answer which was ‘I was falsely accused, there’s nothing to this,’ but that's going to require then for the National Restaurant Association in all likelihood to respond to the media by laying out the details about what actually happened."
And of course, there’s potentially another version of the alleged events that could come to light as provided by the women who reportedly made the harassment claims. According to the original Politico story that launched this affair, those women are bound by confidentiality agreements, but those wouldn’t necessarily prevent them, at some point, from going public with their stories.