With interview, Gloria Cain steps into the political spotlight
On Monday night, when the Fox News program “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren airs an interview with Herman and Gloria Cain, it will be the first time most in the country will have a face to go with the name of the Republican presidential candidate’s wife. It will be the first time most hear her voice or anything she has to say — about who she is, what she does with her time.
And, according to excerpts from the show, Gloria Cain addresses the sexual harassment allegations that have put her husband on the defensive for the past two weeks, allegations dating to the 1990s when he was head of the National Restaurant Association.
“I’m thinking he would have to have a split personality to do the things that were said,” Gloria Cain tells Van Susteren, according to an excerpt from the transcript. She also says: “You hear the graphic allegations, and we know that would have been something that’s totally disrespectful of her as a woman. And I know the type of person he is. He totally respects women.”
The interview turns the preternaturally silent political spouse from meta-story — about how tough it is to come by information on Gloria Cain — to story.
And, presumably, it will settle any questions about her height.
As Herman Cain has defended himself against charges that he made unwanted comments and advances toward several women, he has said that it was comparisons to his wife’s height that led one woman to make allegations against him in a claim that was settled.
He has also said that his wife of 43 years — the two met as college students in Atlanta, where he attended Morehouse and she went to Morris Brown — remains “200 percent supportive of me,” and is “still 200 percent my wife.”
After Chicagoan Sharon Bialek’s news conference last week detailing harassment allegations, including that Cain groped her, he recalled what his wife told him over the phone: “The things that woman described, she said that doesn’t even sound like you, and I’ve known you for 45 years.” Cain said, “My own wife said that I wouldn’t do anything as silly as what that lady was talking about.”
For all her husband’s repeated invocations of her, Gloria Cain has remained the campaign’s mystery woman. Their hometown newspaper, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, says that aside from appearing with her husband as he announced his presidential run in May, she’s been “largely absent since.” The photo most of the media uses of her is from that announcement, and there appear to be no quotes from her in circulation. Local voting records show she voted in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008.
The few details about her come from the candidate’s new biography, “This Is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House.” Chapter 3, entitled “Gloria,” begins with a passage from Proverbs about “a virtuous woman.” He talks about being first drawn to her good looks: “Gloria Etchison was beautiful. Let’s face it; I was first attracted by her looks. And then I figured out she was also smart.”
He writes that she’s a good cook who prefers to stay home in Atlanta, where they attend Antioch Baptist Church, and how they spend time with their two grown children, Melanie and Vincent, and their three grandchildren.
In another part of the book, he does write that she “didn’t immediately jump up and down and cheer” his declaration to run for president. “In fact, she was terrified! Scared to death! That was because of the widely held perception of what it’s like to be in politics — of what it can do to your family and to you, the candidate.”
He ends the chapter by calling his wife totally supportive, though she does not campaign with him, and describing their love as “priceless.”
Typically, spouses of presidential candidates are familiar faces on the stump, telegraphing the roles they’d play if their husbands (or wives) were elected. In the 2008 contest, Michelle Obama frequently emphasized her support for military families, which presaged initiatives she’s championed as first lady.
But historians point out that the role of first lady is a custom job, a wild card in the administration, and that holds true for the campaign. Gloria Cain’s public introduction Monday comes with her husband’s political future in the balance. Of course, that’s precisely the time political spouses are most called upon.
Spencer Wiggins of Nashville has known the Cains, who are godparents to his two children, for nearly 30 years. Herman Cain recruited him as an executive at Burger King in the mid-1980s, and Wiggins went on to work with him in Omaha as a vice president when Cain was chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza.
“She’s a very warm person,” Wiggins says of Gloria Cain. “She makes you feel comfortable. Herman is the yin to her yang, I guess you could say.”
To the extent there’s a perception about her, it’s a misperception, according to Wiggins. “When they describe her as being shy, she’s not a wallflower. She’s not Herman. But when she gets to know you she laughs a lot and she is very outgoing around people she knows.” In the gaping hole of information about Gloria Cain, this passes for a news flash.
“I’m quite sure she’ll be able to maintain her composure,” Wiggins says. He notes that Cain told him that when he received a diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer, his wife was his rock. “This is something else, but they are strong people. I told Herman stay the course; I think Gloria will do the same.”
It’s exactly the kind of thing — along with her height — that the country will be trying to gauge Monday night.