PD regulars know that I have been a fan of Herman Cain for a long time, well before his rise in the polls.  Although, I’m wavering in that support due to some of his most recent gaffes, handling of the sexual harassment allegation and choice of campaign staff (i.e. Mark Block), I think it’s important for people to look at the accusations against him objectively rather than jumping to conclusions and using clichés such as, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. 

Here’s what we know:

  • Two women filed formal complaints while they and Cain worked for the National Restaurant Association.  We only know the name of one woman, but the details have not been provided for either allegation.
    • Karen Kraushaar, we will call her woman #2 for the purposes of this post, was drug out into the spotlight by the media and is yet to release the details of the incident, but is working with her lawyer to schedule a joint press conference with the other women who have made allegations against Cain.
    • Ms. Kraushaar filed another complaint for discrimation and circulation of a sexually explicit email three years later while working at the INS where she initially demanded a four-figure settlement, a promotion on the federal pay scale, reinstated leave time and a one-year fellowship to Havard’s Kennedy School of Government.  Reportedly, she was not allowed to work from home.  She claims it was because of a car wreck, but it’s come to light that she had been asking to work from home prior to the wreck.  In addition, she received an email from a manager, which had been widely circulated on the Internet, comparing men and women to computers.  The email contained comments such as, “Men are like computers because you have to turn them on to get their attention” and “Women are like computers because even your smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory.”
    • She claims she doesn’t recall what type of compensation that she asked for while at the INS.
  • A third woman claimed Cain made inappropriate gestures and invited her to his corporate apartment, but will not come forward with her name or details as to what those inappropriate gestures were.  A pollster, who works for the Perry campaign said he witnessed it, but again, did not provide details.
  • A fourth woman, Sharon Bialek, said Cain tried to take advantage of her when she asked him for help finding a job.
    • Ms. Bialek has had 9 jobs in 17 years and only worked at the NRA for 6 months before being fired.  She has been in the middle of a number of civil lawsuits that claimed she owed thousands of dollars.  The IRS and Illinois Department of Revenue have liens against her due to thousands that she owes for taxes.  She has filed for two bankruptcies and her fiancé is on the verge of filing one now as he is unemployed and she is a homemaker
  • A fifth woman said Cain requested her assistance in scheduling a dinner with a woman that asked him a question during his speech.  Even though she didn’t witness any wrong-doing, she declined to schedule the dinner as she felt his intentions were impure.  She then accepted a dinner invitation with Cain and a friend during which she felt that he stiffed them with a bill for two $400 bottles of wine.
    • Donna Donella is adamant that she is not an accuser, but thinks people should be aware of his inappropriate actions.

Here’s the reality of these situations:

  • If a formal complaint is filed in the workplace, a company will settle it as quickly and quietly as possible, regardless of whether the accused is found guilty of anything.  It’s expensive to take these issues to court and they fear the liability from both the accuser and the accused.  In addition, reputational risk is a major concern.  No company wants a reputation for having a hostile working environment.  It hurts them with their clients and it limits the talent that they are able to hire.
  • These situations are almost always he said/she said with few, if any, witnesses or proof.  Sometimes they are legitimate claims and sometimes they are retaliation.  However, if there is any proof, you can bet that the harasser will be fired so fast that it will make their head spin.  Again, a business it’s a major liability for a business to keep someone who is found guilty of sexual harassment.
  • Women are more fearful of the backlash of filing a formal complaint than they are of dealing with the harasser.  Unfortunately, women who file these types of complaints are generally seen as being overly sensitive, whether they have a legitimate claim or not.

In my opinion, none of these are big red flags.  We’ve all been in situations where we have said/done something stupid that made someone feel uncomfortable (whether we realized it at the time or after the fact).

You just can’t judge someone on an accusation if the accuser isn’t willing to provide their name or details.  If one is accused of wrongdoing, they have a right to know what they are being accused of and who is accusing them so they can have the opportunity to admit any wrong doing or to defend themselves.  Therefore, woman #1 and woman #3 are completely irrelevant to the conversation until they are willing to come forward.

Woman #2, Karen Kraushaar, has always been very good at her job, according to people that have worked with her.  However, the issue isn’t her job performance, it’s her ability to handle conflicts in the workplace.  Granted, I don’t know anything about her situation at work, but I find it difficult to be sympathetic to her complaints.  Why couldn’t she have simply asked the person who sent her that email to stop sending non-work related emails?  Had she asked, I’m sure that person would have stopped.  Could it be possible that she used it as leverage to be able to work from home or get her employer to pay for the Harvard Fellowship and give her a raise?  Furthermore, if your boss tells you no, that doesn’t mean they are discriminating against you.  Furthermore, she says she doesn’t recall amount of compensation she requested from the INS for this claim.  That either means that she views filing workplace complaints as insignificant events or she isn’t telling the truth.  It makes her claim against Cain look much less serious.  In addition, these types of complaints are exactly why many women who have a legitimate sexual harassment claims are afraid to come forward… they don’t want to be grouped with the women who file fivolous complaints like this one.

Woman #4, Sharon Bialek, has many oddities in her story, not to mention her giggly demeanor during her press conference.  Even if Bialek and her fiancé had a good time sitting with Cain at a conference, I find it difficult to believe that a busy CEO would agree to have dinner with someone who had been at his company for 6 months before being fired.  Few CEOs would touch that with a 10″ foot pole.  The most bizarre part of her story was that her response to Cain’s alleged inappropriate, ultra-aggressive behaviour, “You know I have a boyfriend” and allowed him to drive her back to the hotel.  If it were me, my boyfriend would be the last thing on my mind at that particular moment.  He would be lucky if I didn’t know him out cold, but I can you with 100% certainty that I would not allow him to drive me back to the hotel.  All of that, combined with her financial and legal struggles make this claim less than credible.

Woman #5, Donna Donella, is not accusing Cain of anything, other than stiffing her and a friend with an expensive wine bill.  She had a feeling that his intentions were impure, but he didn’t actually make any kind of sexual advances, comments or gestures.  I can understand how he assumed Ms. Donella would be paying the bill as her firm was paying for him to give a speech (travel expenses and meals are typically included).  If the wine bill was that big and they didn’t discuss it beforehand, that was not right, but it is hardly a crime.  As far her gut feeling that his intentions were impure, despite him not doing anything wrong, then why did she agree to go to dinner with him?  I have travelled almost weekly for the last 8 years.  If someone accused me of having impure intentions every time I asked a man (colleague or client) to go to dinner with me, I would never be able to get a job again.  When you’re travelling, it’s nice to have someone to go to dinner with and, after awhile, you get pretty non-discriminatory as to whom you ask and it doesn’t mean anything more than you might have had an interesting conversation with that person and would like to have company while eating a meal at a public place.

I’m sympathetic to people who manage many, many people (thousands in Cain’s case) because you can’t please everyone and sometimes, things you say/do will be taken the wrong way or you will just flat out say/do something stupid.  I don’t think we should be persecuted for that and I hate to see someone’s reputation ruined because of it.  If he legitimately did something wrong, I hope we find that out, but at this point, I don’t see the evidence or credibility in what has been presented so far.  You don’t have to like Cain as a candidate for President, but I hope you will objectively weigh the evidence and not jump to conclusions, in this case or any future cases that you come across.