On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, the campaign of Herman Cain was a stickler for journalistic propriety. The Cain operatives could have helmed any newspaper in the country given their lofty standards for sourcing and attribution. They stood for on-the-record, thickly sourced stuff.
These rock-ribbed journalistic values were conveyed in attacks on Politico, the outlet that had broken news of the sexual harassment complaints that Cain had generated when he was head of the National Restaurant Association. Campaign spokesperson J.D. Gordon played the role of campaign journalism professor. As he explained to Geraldo:
“These two sources aren’t even named in the piece and it was a third party.”
“These are thin allegations, this is non-sourced, right now we’re trying to put this in perspective for you that this is not even...]a] sourced allegation.”
“The international media already passed on it because they knew there was nothing to it.”
Then came Wednesday, and it was time for the Cain campaign to practice some investigative journalism of its own. It chose to air its story on Fox News. High-ranking Cain adviser Mark Block presented the campaign’s findings to Fox’s Bret Baier: An adviser to the campaign of Rick Perry had leaked the story to Politico. When asked for evidence, here’s what Block said:
“In 2003, Herman Cain ran for the Senate. He hired a general consultant, Curt Anderson. Mr. Cain divulged the NRA claims at that time to his general consultant, so the campaign at that point would be prepared if the issue surfaced. It did not. Approximately two weeks ago, as you know, Mr. Anderson went to work for the Rick Perry campaign. What else happened about two weeks ago? Politico began this smear campaign, citing anonymous sources, claiming Mr. Cain acted inappropriately.”
Hand it to the Cain people. There’s no hypocrisy going on here. They hammered the Cain campaign for relying on anonymous sources and they’re practicing what they’re preaching. There are no anonymous sources whatsoever behind their accusations that the Perry campaign tipped off Politico. Not one single dastardly nameless source.
And that’s because there are no sources whatsoever.
Just a timeline, some possibly suspicious circumstances, and a supposition. No documents, no quotes, no...information.
Add to that a flat denial from the central player in the story. Anderson yesterday said this about the Cain offensive:
“I’ve known Herman Cain for about 7 years. I was one of several consultants on his Senate race in 2004 and was proud to help him. I’d never heard any of these allegations until I read them in Politico, nor does anything I read in the press change my opinion that Herman is an upstanding man and a gentleman. I have great respect for Herman and his character and I would never speak ill of him, on the record or off the record. That’s true today and it’s not going to change.”
So that’s one dramatic comedown for the Cain campaign — in the space of three days it falls from the dean of journalism ethics to conveyor of tabloid-style sleaze. Its “scoop” on Anderson and the Politico tip would be laughed out of every newsroom in the United States, except, perhaps, the New York Post, where it would be published immediately.
Ever since this thing started, people have been pressing the question about whether Politico had gotten tipped off by a rival campaign. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, for instance, pressed Politico reporter Ken Vogel on the matter earlier in the week and got nowhere. Just as well. It’s the results of the tip, not the origins, that matter. Given that we now have a third accuser coming forward, that tip appears to be panning out. Had the Perry people indeed passed along the information, they wouldn’t have been engaging in gutter politics. They would have been doing a public service.
An inquiry to the Cain campaign regarding any further evidence for its Anderson claim is pending.