Herman Cain may be dealing with the toughest news cycle of his presidential campaign, but he doesn’t have to face it alone. Conservative pundits across the country are quickly rallying to his defense.
Rush Limbaugh led the charge on Monday morning, saying that media was using “the ugliest racial stereotypes they can to attack a black conservative.”
“This is gutter partisan politics, and it’s the politics of minority conservative personal destruction,” he said, adding that “It really is about blacks and Hispanics getting too uppity.”
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham told a caller on her show that the Cain story was about “destroying a good man’s reputation” and faulted Politico for relying on anonymous sources.
The caller, like other conservatives, compared the incident to Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony alleging harassment by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that nearly derailed his appointment to the bench. That fight, which Thomas derided as a “high tech lynching,” remains an emotional touchstone for many top pundits on the right — Andrew Breitbart credits it with converting him to conservatism.
“Do you see the similarities between the attacks on Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain?” Sean Hannity tweeted.
Redstate blogger Erick Erickson said in a blog post that he didn’t think the reported “five-figure” settlements were commensurate with a serious harassment charge based on his legal experience .
“It just strikes me that a settlement for less than six figures is money paid to deal with the nuisances of an employee fired or otherwise let go who decided to raise the specter of harassment to get more money to leave without causing a scene,” he wrote.
Cain’s status as leader in the polls for the GOP primary has always been a fragile one given his lack of serious scrutiny until recently and his lack of a significant campaign infrastructure. Given that he’s still a relatively new face in the Republican field and many voters are still forming their first opinions of him, the harassment story poses a serious danger to his recent gains. It’s significant, therefore, that conservative media figures are sticking by him for his first real feeding frenzy. If he has any path to surviving this scandal, it definitely runs through them.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.