Don’t Try Herman Cain in the Court of Public Opinion

by John R Guardiano on November 3, 2011

No one should be surprised that one media outlet, Pajamas Media, is now reporting that Herman Cain is guilty of sexual harassment.

When a leading presidential candidate has his back against the wall and is reeling from accusations of wrongdoing, it’s inevitable, in a country this big, that people will come out of the woodwork to indict him. And it’s especially inevitable, I think, when, like Cain, you’re a black conservative, who must suffer all manner of abuse from the Left.

But before we rush to judgment, let’s keep two things in mind:

  • First, it’s a big mistake to try someone in the court of public opinion, where the rules of evidence, such as they are, are weak and biased against the defendant.
  • Second, the charges against Cain date back 12 long years. And so, the statute of limitations has long since passed. The passage of time and distance make it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to gauge the legitimacy and accuracy of these allegations.

Certainly, you have to wonder: why is it that we never heard any of this before? Why did it take 12 years? And why believe (still-unsubstantiated) allegations which seem so at variance with a man who has endeared himself to GOP primary voters?

Herman Cain is being tested as perhaps no presidential candidate has ever before been tested. How he responds in this moment of professional crisis will tell us much about his fitness and readiness for high office.

In the meantime, voters should — and will, I predict — refrain from any precipitous rush to judgment. Herman Cain, after all, has earned our benefit of the doubt.

UPDATE: Surprise, surprise. It looks like there’s a lot less to this Pajamas Media story than we had been led to believe. Slate’s Dave Weigel reports that PJ already is copping to embarrassing and amateurish mistakes.

A previous version of this story mentioned that a source witnessed Cain and the woman entering a taxi together. This was incorrect.

The previous version also mentioned that the woman awoke in Cain’s bed — the source only claimed that the woman awoke in Cain’s apartment. The previous version incorrectly attributed comments from one source to the other source.

As Weigel notes, “that’s not a correction. That’s a massacre. I’m half expecting the next update to report that the man in question was not Herman Cain, but the popular comic actor Charlie Murphy, and that the woman was actually a Japanese body pillow.”

As I say, don’t try someone in the court of public opinion, especially when the charges are 14 years old. Herman Cain’s still standing, and he still deserves our help and support.

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