First, Politico produces a report showing that Herman Cain generated sexual-harassment complaints while head of the National Restaurant Association.
Second, Cain himself spends a day saying contradictory things about the report, with a refrain that the allegations are “totally baseless.”
Third, the Washington Post reports that one of the complainants wants to speak out about this “baseless” stuff, if only she can get released from her non-disclosure agreement.
Fourth, the New York Times adds critical new details. Such as: One of the complainants received a year’s worth of severance following her complaint. From the story:
Four people with contemporaneous knowledge of the encounter said it had taken place in the context of a work outing during which there had been heavy drinking — a hallmark, they said, of outings with an organization that represents the hospitality industry. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid being publicly drawn into the dispute, and declined to provide details of the encounter, saying they did not want to violate the privacy of the woman.
Fifth, the Washington Post notes that the complainant who apparently wanted to speak out may be equivocating a touch. Her lawyer told the Post that she’s a federal employee prohibited by the Hatch Act.
With each tick and tock of the story, we learn just how layered and complicated an investigative report stemming from employment complaints is. They’re sticky and stubborn and mired in legal considerations that keep everyone from opening up. Even those who could speak out use legal considerations as an excuse not to.
Yet with the most recent disclosures, the story has turned a corner, moving from something that detractors could attack with slight justification to something that detractors can attack at great peril to their own credibility. That means that the guy who wrote that it all amounts to a “first-rate tip”and not an actual story may want to issue an amended take on things; that the guy who questioned the story’s traction quotient and chided it for lacking detail may want to officially concede traction; and that those who have linked the story to inexplicable and inexcusable charges of racism may want to hide their faces in shame.