Nothing would delight many conservatives more than a Republican candidate suing a mainstream media outlet over a shoddy, incomplete, and thinly-sourced negative story. The mere threat of legal action is delicious red meat to the base, so it's probably good politics:
A Herman Cain aide said Thursday that the Cain campaign is considering its legal options over the original Politico story, which revealed that the former head of the National Restaurant Association was accused of sexually harassing at least two women during his tenure in the 1990s. This is likely not over with Politico from a legal perspective,” a campaign official told the Post, stopping short of explaining what exactly he meant by taking legal action against the publication. Politico’s Executive Editor, Jim VandeHei said in a statement: “We have heard nothing from the Cain campaign. We stand confidently behind every story Politico reporters have written on the topic.”
Practically speaking, a public figure has to clear a mighty high legal bar to win a defamation or libel suit against a press organization, so I'd be very surprised if Team Cain followed through on the threat. Allahpundit explains the "heavy lift" involved:
His lawyers would need to prove that Politico either knew their story was false or that they published it with reckless disregard for the truth. That’d be a mighty heavy lift considering (a) Politico relied on multiple, albeit anonymous, sources to substantiate its claims and (b) Cain doesn’t dispute the crux of the story, that he was accused of harassment by two women and they received settlements from the NRA. There’s no way Team Cain would file a suit that they’ll probably lose — the headlines in the aftermath would make it sound like the harassment charges had been vindicated — and even if they thought they’d win, they’d be saddling themselves with a completely unneeded distraction during the primaries.
The Cain campaign would be better off highlighting compelling and relevant testimonials regarding the candidate's character, like this:
Former National Restaurant Association board chairman Joseph Fassler offered a firm defense of GOP presidential front-runner Herman Cain, along with an explanation for how Washington’s best kept secret — the identities of Cain’s sexual-harassment accusers — was also kept from the association’s board. “The accusations? It’s a hatchet job, in my opinion,” Fassler told TheDC from his Phoenix, Ariz. office. “My gut tells me it’s a hatchet job. He gets a lead, he gets some traction, and the next thing you know, here come these allegations. It’s sad.”
Fassler said his four years in leadership positions on the association’s board — including one year as chairman and another as past chairman — overlapped with two and one-half years of Cain’s time as CEO. Fassler was first elected to the board in 1984, and was chairman in 1997. He told TheDC that he “never heard anything about Herman that would suggest he had those sort of allegations lodged against him. He was a professional. Thoroughly professional.” Asked why no complaint about Herman Cain ever reached the board, Fassler put the episode in perspective, essentially seeing the amount of money involved as small-potatoes. “This agreement? If it was of a major magnitude, I would have been shocked to not have known about it. So my takeaway was that it must not have been of a major magnitude.”
Later today, the NRA will publicly respond to a request from one of the alleged "victims" that the association release her from a confidentiality agreement so she can speak out on the controversy. Stay tuned.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography