The Two Defenses of Cain Are Not Quite Compatible

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Herman Cain's conservative supporters have two defenses of to his sexual harassment claims -- liberals are trying to destroy him with racist stereotypes and Cain's comments barely count as flirty -- that seem to contradict each other. On Fox & Friends, Peter Johnson Jr. asked, "Is this a high-tech lynching that Politico engaged in? Are we going to hear from these folks that made these allegations? I don't know." That's unlikely, co-host Gretchen Carlson told Johnson in the "after show" segment, if Cain was accurately describing the incident. Why? "If you're that woman ... and you got a cash settlement anywhere between $10,000 and $99,000, are you going to come forward? I mean, are you going to come forward and say 'I thought that that was sexual harassment and I got $50,000 for that?" she said, turning to the camera with a look of disbelief. What self-respecting woman would admit that's the best sexual harassment she could get?

Ann Coulter combined the two arguments on Sean Hannity's show Monday. It's ironic that civil rights laws were passed to protect black people are being used against a black man "in a cruel vicious horrible way," Coulter said. "Now, you got liberal women using laws to protect blacks in order to attacked conservative blacks with these vicious outrageous charges." But the outrageous charges -- "the most horrible sexualized fantasies," Coulter called them -- are also minor and not really sexual harassment. "And everyone knows that an awful lot of these sexual harassment lawsuits, the bar has been set so low by court cases, I mean, things like a man having a photo of his own wife in a bathing suit on his desk, that has been considered a hostile environment. Silly comments made at a meeting, comments over her, not even directed at a woman in the workplace has been used as grounds as a sexual harassment."
The National Review's Betsey Woodruff posted two Republican lawmakers' defenses of Cain in the same story. Sen. Mike Lee warned, "if this turns out to be another racially-motivated attack on an African American conservative that is unfounded, unfair, uncorroborated, and in this instance, based on anonymous sources, I think that’s going to rally people around him, in Congress and elsewhere."  Meanwhile, Lee's colleague, Sen. Rand Paul, lamented all the workplace sensitivity. "There are people now who hesitate to tell a joke to a woman in the workplace, any kind of joke, because it could be interpreted incorrectly," Paul told Woodruff. "I don’t. I’m very cautious."
If he wants more laughs, perhaps Paul should take a job at Fox News.  As Talking Points Memo's Evan McMorris-Santoro and Jullian Rayfield noticed, if you want to get in trouble for sexual harassment at Fox News, you'd better bring the big guns. On The Five, Fox News's Andrea Tantaros shrugged that a male Fox contributor "threw a candy corn down my dress yesterday, and I didn’t sue." Gretchen Carlson suggested something similar on another show. "As a female, when I’m listening to that, I’m thinking, I’ve heard a lot worse than that in the workplace. I mean, I have! Come on, that is not sexual harassment." Her co-host Brian Kilmeade responded, "True." And how would you know, Mr. Kilmeade?

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