Witness What Herman Cain Is Putting His Family Through

An uncomfortable Fox News interview reminds us that, whether the candidate stays in the race or drops out, he should try to keep loved ones out of the spotlight

In the video above, Herman Cain drags his family onto Fox News for an awkward mingling session with Greta Van Susteren where the Republican candidate wasn't the only elephant in the room. Personally, it matters to me not at all whether Cain sexually harassed subordinates or had an affair as I evaluate his fitness for the White House*. Voters would do better to focus on more relevant measures of the man, like the fact that he is proudly ignorant of almost all foreign policy matters, occasionally makes offensive jokes at the expense of illegal immigrants and Muslims, suggested he would impose a special loyalty oath on one ethnic group, has a domestic platform that consists almost entirely of the inane 9-9-9 plan, and proved either his mendacity or highly questionable taste by asserting that Godfather's is the best pizza available in America.

All I asked with respect to the sex scandals is, "Can We Leave Herman Cain's Wife Out of This?" But no. Cain decided to haul her out as a political prop in the most uncomfortable circumstances imaginable, on the long-shot chance that it'll marginally improve his electoral chances.

As for Fox News, they're complicit. It would be one thing if Fox decided that asking Cain's family about the allegations against him is fair game. It would also be okay if the network judged those questions to be off limits.

But the appearance above is the worst of both worlds. If meeting the candidate's family is deemed newsworthy, then why not ask them the obvious questions? To be clear, I'd much prefer the "leave the man's family out of the spotlight" approach, but I see no reason to permit their use as a political prop by credulously behaving as if that isn't what's actually going on in the segment. I don't entirely blame Van Susteren, who probably didn't want to be there either, but still.

*Quick update: I am not saying that sexual harassment is a frivolous or unimportant matter -- just that in Herman Cain's case, he is unqualified for the job he is seeking in every way, and so if the allegations against him are true that wouldn't change my opinion at all about whether or not he is qualified -- by the most directly relevant metrics available, we already know that he is not. Could've been clearer about that, and I certainly do think that someone generally qualified for a job should be disqualified if their m.o. is to harass female subordinates. Sorry for the confusion.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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