November 11th, 2011
04:40 PM ET
11 years ago

Cain faces pushback over Anita Hill remark

(CNN) - Herman Cain wouldn't answer questions Friday afternoon about a comment he made regarding Anita Hill, the law school professor whose sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 made national headlines.

"I want to get back on message. That's not on message," Cain told reporters outside a fundraising event in New York City. "I want to fix this economy so people can go back to work–not continue all this attention of stuff that does not matter."

Cain, who's been embroiled in allegations of inappropriate behavior from his time leading the National Restaurant Association, was at a campaign event on Thursday in Michigan, where he was jokingly asked if he had heard from Hill.

In the moment, caught on camera by Fox News, the Republican presidential candidate bent over chuckling and quipped, "Is she going to endorse me?" The rest of the room then erupted with laughter.

While the initial question that prompted Cain's response was inaudible in the video, the candidate confirmed in a radio interview Friday that he was asked about being contacted by Hill.

"It in no way was intended to be an insult towards Anita Hill or anybody else," Cain said on Fred Dicker's radio show.

Cain, instead, insisted the media was zeroing-in on him in an attack strategy he termed "flyspecking."

"Any word I say is now gonna be flyspecked by somebody and somebody who does not support Herman Cain," he said. "They're going to try to spin it into a negative."

Cain faced questions Friday over how he handled the "Anita Hill" comment, given the comparison that some have made between Cain's situation and the Thomas-Hill showdown.

Several Cain supporters have painted the GOP White House hopeful as a black conservative victimized by those on the left who may be unhappy with an African American running as a Republican.

A super political action committee backing Cain released an ad last week, telling viewers that Thomas went through a similar so-called "high-tech lynching" when Hill's allegations raised serious questions about the nominee.

The ad ended with an on-screen message: "Don't let the left do it again."

Cain has repeatedly denied that he's ever sexually harassed anyone, calling the accusations false and "baseless" in multiple media appearances as well as a press conference.

Meanwhile, some on both the right and left have questioned Cain's handling of the nearly-two week ordeal. On Friday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a rival for the Republican presidential nomination, argued that now is not the time to be making jokes.

"I think if you look at the concerns we have, about issues like sexual harassment, look at the tragedy at Penn state, if you look at how people feel in general about this kind of stuff, it's not something to joke about," Gingrich said on Laura Ingraham's radio show.

- CNN's Kevin Liptak and Rebecca Stewart contributed to this report.

Also see:

Poll: Three-way battle for GOP nomination

Gingrich: Not running for 'super governor'

Bachmann: Protesters were 'ignorant' and 'disrespectful'

Filed under: 2012 • Clarence Thomas • Herman Cain
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. NC

    What a ignorant jerk Herman Cain is.

    November 11, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. The Real Tom Paine

    He keeps demonstrating he's not serious about this. Its stunning how clueless he is about the impact of his words.

    November 11, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  3. crooked bridge

    I get it. Herman says something inane and worthy of inquiry and his tactic is to say that the media should focus on taking about jobs. Tip, maybe if you stopped saying dumbs things and actually talked about jobs yourself you could avoid all this. What a pompous dolt.

    November 11, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Woman In California

    It DOES matter Mr. Cain. What also matters is the way you disrespect women and laugh about it. Your short lived stardom is coming to an end in a few months when your race becomes a serious and threatening issue. Then your "brothers" the Koch's can give you a beautiful red cape (like David O'Selznick gave Hattie McDaniel for her performance as a ________ in Gone With The Wind) and send you on your way and when it happens don't forget to BLAME YO'SELF.

    November 11, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. abby1

    Everytime this buffoon opens his mouth, he shows his ignorance.

    November 11, 2011 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  6. Patriot Awesome

    Looks like Cain is the new Palin this season.

    November 11, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. DAK

    Okay, then let us focus on jobs. Tell us, the voters, exactly how YOU, Mr Cain, as President, would create jobs. Not Congress, not business leaders, not "the factory just out of town" but how YOU would do it. I say if he wants to talk about jobs, then the media should focus on jobs and ask nothing but questions about HOW he would do it and not let him get away with speaking in general terms. I want step-by-step, concrete plans on how he would insure unemployment fell the day after he took office. What executive orders he would sign and what he would do. NOT what he would ask/tell/whine/threaten Congress to do. I think he should be glad the media isn't asking him about the 999 plan or anything dealing with things outside the country as he knows nothing about that while it is plain he knows how to cover his butt and twist things around to where he is the victim.

    November 11, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. mikeymike

    I remember Bush "joking" about not finding WMD in Iraq. Thousands of deaths later, it's still not funny.

    November 11, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  9. A Floridian

    Amazing how this STUFF mattered when it was all about Bill Clinton. But now that it is about a Republican, oh, no it doesn't matter and these accusers are all liars, etc., etc.

    Republicans thy name is hypocrites.

    November 11, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. RINO Bil

    There are five other Republican Tea Party candidates who don't have the baggage Herman Cain brings along.

    So why should I even consider this guy? I mean George Romney has business experience and gubernator experience as well, while Cain has not held elective office.

    To me, he's out of the running along with Ricky "Oops" Peryy.

    November 11, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. s kel

    Hermit Pain looks like the asz he is!

    November 11, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  12. Jeff

    This guy sounds like Palin, always blaming the media or someone else for stupid friggin comments they have made

    November 11, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. The Greedy Old Pigs are whiny babies with no understanding of history

    It's amazing that KochCain, Thomas and their brain-dead supporters can toss around terms like "high tech lynching", which is incredibly offensive to those who understand what a real lynching is. If they'd used the word "Holocaust" instead, Jewish people everywhere would rightfully screaming their objections. But casually using the word "lynching" in US politics is OK. And they wonder why racial wounds haven't healed yet.

    November 11, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. fed-up

    why are the repubes blaming the left for this? cain himself blamed the perry campain. two of the women are repubes. it seems that cain puts his foot in his mouth everytime he opens it, then when he is asked a question about his comments he says he wants to stay on message. i thought it was very disrepectful for him to call the former speaker of the house a princess and now making a joke concerning Anita Hill. my question is.. if he says these things in public what kinds of things does he say about women when the camaras are off? my poinion is he is a sexist. plain and simple.

    November 11, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  15. Hawk

    The only jobs that he could create are giving blondes goverment jobs for sexual favors.

    November 11, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  16. Jake

    he counters sexual harassment allegations with more threats, "think twice." At this point, it doesn't matter if he did it (repeatedly) or not. we've seen in every other way he is disrespectful to women.

    November 11, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. thepoliticalcat

    Interesting. He feels its OK to trash the various women who have accused him of inappropriate behaviour, yet when asked about it he refuses to answer on the grounds (and very shaky grounds these are) that he's "staying on message." What "message" were you trying to convey by disrespecting the top-ranking woman in American politics, Mr. Cain? What "message" were you trying to convey by disrespecting a law professor who was vindicated by the very people who attacked her, a decade after her accusations first surfaced?

    And why isn't CNN talking about the women Herman Cain allegedly sexually harassed as recently as last year? Two women employees of Iowa Christian radio talk-show host Steve Deace alleged inappropriate behaviour by Cain, and their employer, Mr. Deace, confirmed the details to AP and Politico, and wrote an op-ed stating that the Republican Party should vet Cain in more detail. These allegations aren't "decades" old, there was a witness who has already spoken up, and the women, being Christian conservatives, have no reason to lie. What's your answer to THEM, Cain? SIX women, THREE witnesses, and at least THREE affidavits. TWELVE people who all claim that you acted inappropriately, MOST of them conservative Christian Republicans.

    Apparently, Spermin'Herman wants us to believe that EVERYBODY's lying but him.

    November 11, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  18. lisaj

    Im just happy people are starting to see this man for what he is and that is a big fat joke!!

    November 11, 2011 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  19. Paul1st

    The mantra "wanting to stay on message" simply means that Cain only wants to talk about what Cain wants to talk about. He is growing frustrated that he cannot bully reporters to ask only questions he wants to answer. Cain needs to take a lesson from others who have been in a similar – address the issues promptly, truthfully, forthrightly, directly, honestly as often as it takes. Only then will he be able to move on.

    November 11, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  20. LibertyQueen

    Cain is nothing but a threatening, petty, insecure, weak, limp 2-inch woman-hating misogynist and is being taken down big time... Sisterhood style!

    November 11, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  21. LibertyQueen

    BTW, the matter between Clinton and Lewinsky was consensual, the se..x..ual assaults by Cain on at least 4 women are just that, se..x..ual assaults and as such are NOT consensual.

    November 11, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  22. LibertyQueen

    And let us not forget, Gingrich is the philanderer who dumped his 2nd wife while she was in the hospital with cancer. Do we want a blubbery, over-the-hill, 2-time loser in marriage as president? Don't think so!

    November 11, 2011 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  23. Michele, NC

    I can't believe Cain is playing the race card, Hey Cain! You did this to yourself, you are a pervert to say the least! 3 known women who were actually were paid to go away and keep quiet about being sexually harrassed by you!!! How many women went along with the harressment out of fear or either they don't mind using sex to keep their job or advance their careers did you actually sexually harress is the real question? I know it can't just be the ones that actually turned you down, no!!!! There had to be some ok's in there in order for you to think you could behave this way and get away with it. So you thought!!! poor wife!! And this is an opinion of a black woman!!!!!

    November 11, 2011 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  24. Stephen in Bedford, Texas

    For someone who has been accused of harassing women, he is doing a poor job convincing us that they were lying. Disrespect has become the face of the GOP on all levels.

    November 11, 2011 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  25. Lenny Pincus

    Anita Hill is an intelligent accomplished woman who supported Robert Bork for the Supreme Court. That a bunch of rednecks would find the time to have a big belly laugh over what is one of the worst moments in SCOTUS history–the ascension of Clarence Thomas to the bench–is a bigger joke than any of these clowns.

    November 11, 2011 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
1 2 3