The Cain Campaign and Media-Morphing

December 1st, 2011

By Dan Miller

Yo-YoThe Cain campaign, thus far a passenger on a wild yo-yo, needs to counter the spin with facts.

Back when Herman Cain was making apparently inconsistent statements about his views on abortion, I suggested how he should restate them in the context of what he would do about abortion as the President. After the initial accusations of sexual harassment surfaced and I didn’t think he had handled them adequately, I wrote about what I thought he should have said and done. That article was in the nature of a postmortem. When, despite my misgivings, his campaign seemed to be flourishing I wrote that he had the right stuff to be the President and seemed to have done OK. As the facts change, so do perceptions.

Ginger White (AP)Then, on November 28th, Mr. Cain’s presidential aspirations suffered another blow — and it might yet amount to a fatal heart attack — when Ginger White alleged during a television appearance that she and Mr. Cain had been having a long term relationship. Mr. Cain should possess, or have access to, documents to challenge as factually wrong enough of her few seemingly specific accusations to cast substantial doubt on the significance of other, amorphous, accusations.

According to Ms. White, it was an “on and off” sort of thing “for the last 13, 14 years,” “was not a consistent love affair that went on every day for the last 14 years” and was “a very casual affair.” During a November 29th conference call with campaign supporters, Mr. Cain acknowledged that

I have been attempting to help her financially because she was out of work and destitute, desperate. So, thinking that she was a friend — and I have helped many friends — I now know that she wasn’t the friend that I thought she was. But it was a just a friendship relationship.

The above quotation media-morphed, in the headline to the linked article and elsewhere, into “Cain admits paying woman” or words to similar effect. His statement probably does indicate that he gave her money. However, it does not necessarily support Ms. White’s accusation that “she has received gifts and money from the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO for the past two and a half years.” What sort of gifts? That’s open to wild imaginings — from jewelry to edible undergarments to small amounts of money to help pay the rent or buy food. Assuming that there were gifts of money, left unanswered (and apparently unasked) are such questions as how much money, when, why, how (cash, check, money order or otherwise) and what if anything either of them said to Mrs. Cain about the “gifts and money.” It’s either a salacious scandal (but not approaching President Clinton’s Oral Oval Office sexcapades) or nothing that should bother reasonable voters. Mr. Cain’s handling of the problem is a different matter.

Ms. White’s media statements may or may not be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; she may or may not have embellished the facts for her own purposes. It is becoming rather clear, as indicated below, that the media have been using them for their own purposes. Those purposes may or not go beyond selling newspapers and ratings.

Until December 1st, the only hard evidence that Ms. White had presented consisted of several of her recent phone bills, the ones first noted in the press apparently showing that there had been text messages and phone calls to or from Mr. Cain.

[Ms. White] showed us some of her cell phone bills that included 61 phone calls or text messages to or from a number starting with 678 [not 999]. She says it is Herman Cain’s private cell phone. The calls were made during four different months– calls or texts made as early as 4:26 in the early morning, and as late as 7:52 at night. The latest were in September of this year.

“We’ve never worked together,” said White. “And I can’t imagine someone phoning or texting me for the last two and a half years, just because.”

We texted the number and Herman Cain called us back. He told us he “knew Ginger White” but said these are “more false allegations.” He said she had his number because he was “trying to help her financially.” [Emphasis and [note] added]

Damning? Perhaps, depending on who made the calls and sent the messages and what was said. According to the Village Voice, Mr. Cain “texted her feverishly in the midst of the recent flap over sexual harassment allegations against him.”

“To or from” soon and not surprisingly media-morphed into sixty-one calls or texts “from” Mr. Cain, as though he had sent all of them. According to many accounts, including this one,

She has since shown reporters her phone bill, which includes 61 texts or calls from Cain in the past four months-even as the ex-pizza business magnate battled accusations that he sexually harassed at least four women in the 1990s. [Emphasis added]

Sixty-one calls or texts over a four month period amounts to one call or text every two days. “Feverish?” My wife and I talk to each other on our cell phones on an average of at least that often each day, and we are usually present in the same house. Some of the Cain-White calls or texts were said to be very early in the morning or late (the latest apparently at 7:52 p.m.) at night. A call at an oddly late or early hour could be evidence of an “inappropriate” relationship; a text (to be read at the recipient’s convenience) probably would not be subject to that interpretation.

How many calls and how many texts were sent by Ms. White to Mr. Cain, how many did she receive from Mr. Cain and which of each were very early or very late? Although Ms. White apparently provided copies of her phone bills to the media, and while that information should be apparent on or ascertainable from them, it had not been disclosed by the media or, apparently, by Ms. White.

Then, on December 1st, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution threw a morsel of meat into the stew. It reported,

Between Oct. 22 and Nov. 18, there were 70 text messages between White’s cellphone and Cain’s cellphone. Some were as early as 4:54 a.m., and some came late into the night.

That amounts to an average of 2.4 messages per day — four times more per day over a substantially shorter twenty-nine day period than previously reported and during a very busy time for Mr. Cain. That does seem a bit “feverish.” Contrary to the apparent thrust of prior news reports, however,

A review of the records by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows Cain sent 17 [of the 70] text messages to White, almost always responding to messages from her. (Emphasis and insert added)

According to the same report,

Lin Wood, Cain’s attorney, told the AJC on Wednesday that he thinks most of the messages were asking for money, which Cain has admitted to providing the Dunwoody woman who has repeatedly faced eviction. Cain has denied a physical relationship with White.

“Maintain common sense,” Wood said in an interview. “Mr. Cain was extremely busy in his campaign. He didn’t have time to send a lot of texts.”

Additional information has been sought from Ms. White.

On Wednesday, Wood sent a letter to White’s attorney, Edward Buckley, asking for her phone records to “test her credibility and motive” for coming forward to the media. Wood, in the letter, said he wanted to “ascertain whether the decision to grant interviews was politically motivated and to determine whether she has received or [been] promised money for participating.”

Would Mr. Cain’s own phone bills and other records for the same periods provide additional pertinent information? If he wants to regain his status as a viable candidate, they and any other relevant information should be provided. Promptly. Failure to produce them would almost certainly be reported as evidence against him.

Ms. White also claimed that Mr. Cain took her on “several” trips only one of which she specifically identified, to a 1997 boxing match in Las Vegas. A romantic venue? “Herman flew me on several trips,” she said. “I went on several trips with Herman. One particular trip was the Mike Tyson-Holyfield fight in Las Vegas.” Did anyone accompany Mr. Cain and Ms. White? On that trip and on any of the “several” others? Who and under what circumstances? What records, if any, can Mr. Cain produce about the purchase of such tickets? What if anything did Mr. Cain tell his wife about the trips and when?

Mrs. Cain has not yet addressed Ms. White’s accusations, at all. If Mr. Cain’s campaign is not to be aborted and his reputation badly tarnished, she should state whether she and Ms. White were acquainted, when they became acquainted, whether they were friends, and what Mr. Cain had told her about the relationship when. On how many if any of the “several” trips with Ms. White did Mrs. Cain accompany them? How many, if any, phone calls or texts passed between Ms. White and Mrs. Cain? Since Mr. Cain’s personal cell phone is said to have been used for the Cain-White messages already reported, it seems likely that Mrs. Cain may have her own cell phone.

If there is no something here, Mr. Cain needs to make it clear that there isn’t. Although the earlier accusations had little if any substance and the current accusations may well also have little if any, their cumulative effect has been devastating if for no better reason than that the most recent are the most recent. For the same reason, if Mr. Cain can produce credible evidence sucking away the sting from the most recent accusations, the earlier accusations will be similarly diminished.

Beyond his denials that anything inappropriate happened, Mr. Cain hasn’t yet made clear what happened and what didn’t. Now,

numerous Republicans have said Mr. Cain’s time in the race is up. Mr. West appeared to join that chorus Wednesday during an interview on the WMAL Morning Majority radio show. Mr. Cain has denied having an affair and told his staff Tuesday that he is “reassessing” his campaign.

“Beyond reassessing his campaign, he probably needs to understand that he is a distracter for what’s going on right now and we should move on,” Mr. West said. “That would be my advice to him.”

Unless Mr. Cain can do a lot better very soon — and I hope he can — that would be my advice as well. Then, those of us who have favored his candidacy could look elsewhere in the field where the pickings at the front are lean but less than meaty. He owes at least that much to those who have supported him.

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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3 Responses to “The Cain Campaign and Media-Morphing”

  1. Tom Carter |

    As I said before, I think these personal allegations have already sunk Cain. He’s still struggling to keep his nose above the water, but he would be better off to just give up and sink into the briny deep. Better for him and his family, better for all of us.

    If this is what it took to sink him, fine. He needed to go, given that he’s shown that he’s clearly lacking the experience, knowledge, and willingness to learn that one needs if one aspires to be president. And I’m not sure what you mean when you say the the pickings are “lean but less meaty.” If “meaty” means substantive and well-qualified, well, re Cain one has to say, “Where’s the meat?”

  2. Dan Miller |

    The point of the article was that the accusations against Mr. Cain as reported by the press keep morphing, due to laziness, desire to sell more newspapers or to improve ratings or perhaps due to ideological bias. There is, for example, no excuse for “reporting” sixty-one calls or text messages to and from Mr. Cain during a four month period as all having been sent by Mr. Cain, who was said to have sent messages to her “feverishly.” There is no excuse for transposing the financial help Mr. Cain gave Ms. White into “gifts and money” and into a headline claiming that Cain “paid the woman.” Giving someone financial assistance does not properly translate into “paying” him; one generally “pays” for goods or services.

    That said, I have become sadly disappointed in Mr. Cain’s responses to the various allegations of sexual impropriety as well as in his unclear and therefore seemingly contradictory statements on abortion and other matters.

    This will hurt.

    Cain told the New Hampshire Union Leader that in about 70 text messages she sent him between Oct. 22 and Nov. 18, White was “asking for financial assistance. She was out of work and had trouble paying her bills and I had known her as a friend.

    “She wasn’t the only friend who I had helped in these tough economic times, and so her messages to me were relating to ‘need money for rent’ or whatever the case may be. I don’t remember all the specifics.”

    Cain said White told him in the texts that she did not have a job and was unable to get financial help from her family, “and that quite frankly, I was the only person who was a friend at the time – and I underscore ‘friend’ – that was in a position to help her.

    “I’m a soft-hearted person when it comes to that stuff. I have helped members of my church. I have helped members of my family.

    “And I know a lot of other people who had done the same thing, and sometimes, quite frankly, it was desperation,” Cain said.

    Cain said that in 17 reported text messages back to her, he would respond with messages such as, “What are you doing to get a job?”

    Cain said he did give Ginger White money, although he would not say how much _ on the advice of counsel, he said.

    And, he acknowledged, “My wife did not know about it, and that was the revelation. My wife found out about it when she went public with it.

    “My wife now knows,” Cain said. “My wife and I have talked about it and I have explained it to her. My wife understands that I’m a soft-hearted giving person.”

    He said his wife “is comfortable with the explanation that I told her.”

    There may be some light at the end of the tunnel, but it probably isn’t the CainTrain.

  3. d |

    Get over your love of Cain,Dan.. He’s going,going,gone. Whew,we were spared that dog and pony show,emphasis on dog.

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