News networks take different approach to Cain case

AP News
Posted: Nov 07, 2011 5:17 PM
News networks take different approach to Cain case

The three different all-news television networks took three different approaches to covering Monday's emergence of a fourth woman to accuse Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment.

CNN showed the woman, Sharon Bialek, deliver her statement live at a news conference with lawyer Gloria Allred. MSNBC did not show the statement but began talking about her accusations on the air as she was making them, while an on-screen headline proclaimed: "NBC News has not confirmed 4th accuser's story."

Fox News Channel did not air the news conference, concentrating instead on reports that a verdict had been reached in the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor, but told viewers they could watch a live stream of the news conference on the network's website.

The Chicago-area woman is a former employee of the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association, an industry trade group led by Cain at the time of the alleged 1997 incident. Bialek said she had sought Cain's help after being fired from her job and he made an unwanted sexual advance.

CNN aired statements by Bialek and her attorney but cut off its live report before any questions were asked to switch to anchor Wolf Blitzer, who read a statement of denial from Cain's campaign. Blitzer called them "very ugly, disgusting allegations."

Fox political reporter Carl Cameron previewed the news conference Monday morning. Cameron noted that the Cain campaign had pointed out that Allred has donated to Democratic campaigns "and has been accused of pretty obvious self-promotion with some of her clients."

After the news conference, Fox's Megyn Kelly briefly reported on the allegations, and Cameron returned for a report on Shepard Smith's 3 p.m. EST newscast.

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Network news executives had to weigh the potential explosive newsworthiness of Bialek's accusations, particularly when the previous three previous complaints against Cain had no names publicly attached, against their inability to check on the accusations before Bialek went before cameras.

"We wanted to be able to take a look at the press conference and do some reporting before we aired it," said MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines. Fox did not discuss its decision-making and CNN had no immediate comment.

CNN anchorwoman Brooke Baldwin noted later on Monday afternoon that the network had been "unable to speak with this woman ourselves, unable to vet her claims."

The ABC, CBS and NBC broadcast networks did not do special reports on Bialek's accusations.