Ken Connor

Since the beginning of his meteoric rise to political stardom, Herman Cain has worn his lack of political experience like a badge of honor. That same lack of experience, however, likely accounts for Mr. Cain's rather inept response to allegations that he was the subject of complaints of sexual harassment while CEO of the National Restaurant Association. The GOP presidential hopeful is learning the hard way that, in politics, living life as a frontrunner means living life under the microscope.

Cain, who has been married for 43 years, is alleged to have made sexually inappropriate comments and gestures towards at least three women during his time at CEO of the National Restaurant Association. At this point all anyone knows for certain is that allegations were made and settlements were reached; but, specific details as to the nature of the purported harassment, the veracity of the claims, and the credibility of the accusers remain unknown. Though the National Restaurant Association has waived the confidentiality agreement governing the settlement with the primary accuser, she has yet to speak publicly about the details of the allegations (her lawyer is purportedly organizing a joint press conference in which all the accusers will together present their stories to the public, but this hasn't happened yet).

With nothing concrete to go on, the media has made hay for over a week, essentially recycling the same story over and over. Cain, for his part, has run out of patience with the media for continuing its probe. He's denied any inappropriate behavior and claimed that he was not part of any settlement reached with any of the women, and having devoted one press conference to "putting the issue to bed" he's refusing to discuss the matter further.

This is only the most recent example of the media's "guilt by accusation" modus operandi. Accusations are made, and immediately the burden of proof falls on the accused to disprove them. Facts quickly become irrelevant. This is wrong. Just as our courts of law presume innocence until guilt is proved, so too should the court of public opinion refrain from judgment until all the facts are known. Anyone can make an accusation after all, and the unique "he said, she said" nature of sexual harassment allegations make it particularly difficult to prove guilt or innocence with any level of certainty. The architects of this smear campaign – if that's indeed what this is – know this, and are milking the situation for all it's worth. They lit the fire of scandal knowing full well that the media would mindlessly fan the flames and reflexively jump on the bandwagon of the "victimized women" in this case.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.