From the way former employees of the National Restaurant Association are talking about the sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain, you'd think everyone's first day involved a shirtless Brad Pitt cornering them in the hallway and explaining that the first and second rule of the NRA is that you don't talk about sexual harassment at the NRA. Though at least a dozen sources have talked to major news outlets about Cain's "agressive and unwanted" behavior, it's still clear what exactly that means. So far it seems that the three alleged victims aren't interested in becoming the next Anita Hill. On the one hand, it's good that no former associate has decided to make that decision for them by saying too much to the media. Yet as a result, the charges against Cain are so vague that many Americans don't see what the big deal is.
Though we still don't have a clear understanding of the complaints made by the three (or more) women, today's batch of quotes from anonymous sources makes it clear that the allegations go beyond someone taking a compliment the wrong way. The way Cain talks about the incidents makes it sound like he could have told the woman her brooch was very becoming, then invited her up to his suite for a cup of chamomile tea and a spirited discussion about her favorite Dickens novel. Even if he did hit on the woman, many don't see the problem. Plenty of people get a little tipsy at an after-hours party and tell their office crush that they're interested, and it usually doesn't end in sexual harassment charges.
What people are missing is that the women who complained about Cain's behavior were subordinates, and he didn't simply ask them on a date and get turned down. Sources tell the New York Times that while drinking with employees, Cain suggested to a woman who was roughly 20 years younger that she come up to his hotel room. "She was uncomfortable, and it was inappropriate from the start," says one source. "He was persistent." She complained to the top levels of the NRA within hours. Politico reports:
The woman told one of the sources Cain made a suggestion that she felt was overtly sexual in nature and that "she perceived that her job was at risk if she didn't do it."
"She is a pretty confident individual, and she was pretty upset," the source, an acquaintance of the woman, said of her demeanor after the encounter with Cain. "Not crying, but angry."
The woman says that after she made the complaint she felt there was a "change of attitude" toward her from the bosses, and eventually she decided it was best to leave the NRA and worked out a deal for a $35,000 settlement, which was roughly a year's salary. Politico has discovered the other woman who accused Cain of sexual harassment was given a $45,000 settlement. It seems both women are still unwilling to make rounds on TV, but the Washington Post reports that one is negotiating with the NRA to allow her to release a one page statement to the press.
Meanwhile, Cain has continued accusing Mitt Romney and Rick Perry of leading a smear campaign against him, even though his advisers have told him to stop answering questions about the sexual harassment allegations. An aide told the Times that Cain is angry, so he's ignoring the advice of those around him. In other words, things should get even messier in the next few days. Though, even if Cain doesn't understand that 9-9-9 is a pizza deal, not a tax plan, he's actually right on this one. By hurling accusations at his opponents, he's turning this into a story about who's guilty of leaking the information to Politico, when it should be about whether or not Cain is guilty of sexual harassment.