Until Politico revealed on Sunday night that Herman Cain was accused by two former female employees of sexual harassment while he was the chief D.C. lobbyist for the restaurant industry, the former pizza executive had risen to the top of the polls by playing the role of the folksy outsider. But his bumbling attempts to control the damage and deny the allegations make him look like a run-of-the-mill D.C. insider — albeit an insider who breaks into gospel song in the middle of nationally televised press conferences.
“I’ve never sexually harassed anyone,” Cain said while addressing the National Press Club on Monday, after he and his campaign had repeatedly declined to respond to Politico’s questions when they were reporting the story. “I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association, and I say falsely because it turned out after the investigation to be baseless.”
It was a perfectly conventional, wordy denial. And then he broke into song:
Cain’s reaction to a scandal that is threatening to derail his presidential campaign was to stop explaining, and start singing. The only good thing about this song-and-dance strategy is that it represents a drastic improvement from his previous efforts to respond to the story.
On Sunday, Politico reporter Jonathan Martin confronted Cain on the street and asked, “Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life, of harassment by a woman?” According to Politico, Cain responded by playing a game of “I know you are, but what am I?”
He breathed audibly, glared at the reporter and stayed silent for several seconds. After the question was repeated three times, he responded by asking the reporter, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”
Is this really the best that Cain could come up with as a response to a 15-year-old allegation that was likely to surface as he put himself under the microscope of a national campaign?
Until Cain can learn to face adversity like a real candidate, neither the media nor the Democratic Party will consider him a real challenger for the White House. And if voters start thinking of him as a sleazy lobbyist instead of as a folksy pizza magnate, his Tea Party supporters may soon abandon him as well.
Bonus video: Cain’s inability to deal with the scandal infected the rest of his campaign staff. Here’s Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon flatly refusing to respond to questions on “Geraldo Live” on Sunday night:
Bonus Bonus Video: Here’s Herman Cain singing “Imagine … There’s No Pizza” — a reminder that Cain, try as he might, will never be a normal politician:
Copyright 2011 The National Memo