Cain, Thomas Scandals Show Media at Work

Herman Cain Wikipedia

The big news as this week began was a climate expert's prediction that the world as we know it is in danger, with temperatures expected to increase 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. Energy official sees climate ‘catastrophe’ was the report from a convention of climate experts. The implication is that the next generation -- and perhaps some of us -- will face massive famine and drought that will kill billions of people along the way to the century's end.

Let's leave that problem for another day, and focus on issues creating even bigger headlines: which of the many sex scandals among U.S. government leaders should the news media report in depth? The week's beginning brought an exceptional trove of raw material, which Washington insiders find as revealing for what's left out as for what's included.

Most prominently, an Atlanta woman named Ginger White alleged a 13-year illicit relationship with the married GOP presidential candidate and "family values" advocate Herman Cain, which he denied. Cain's counsel, Lin Wood, told the media that the candidate had no obligation to answer questions. Yet Cain stepped forward to pre-empt White by telling CNN, "I don't have anything to hide." Our project has published a lot about Cain, and tried especially hard to give him the benefit of the doubt on Oct. 31 when we covered at the National Press Club his first denials sexual harassment of staff during the 1990s. But the turning point has come in the allegations from White, the fifth woman with such claims and the third to go public. At this writing, Cain reportedly told his staff he is considering ending his campaign. Whatever the case on that, he's likely to continue as the butt of comedy shows and in his continued role as a front-man for the two billion air Koch brother industrialists, Charles and David, in their long-running public relations effort against taxes and regulation for billionaire tycoons. But there's more this week.

The Post, among other news outlets, reported on whether conflicts by Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan should require them to recuse from the Court's deliberation over the nation's Obama-backed health care insurance mandate. Republicans have called for Justice Elena Kagan to recuse herself because she was Solicitor General in the Obama administration during early stages of advocacy for the plan. It's part of the public record, but not this week's Post story, that 52 House Democrats have called for an impeachment inquiry of Thomas regarding his false statements on sworn financial disclosure forms regarding his wife's income, including from Obama health law opponents.

Therefore, the Post's parallel treatment of recusal arguments for Thomas and Kagan, reported in Health-care case brings fight over which Supreme Court justices should decide it, is a false equivalence that is unfair to readers. I had higher hopes when the Post featured John Steele, a widely published a legal ethics expert, for an online Q&A with readers (summarized in How ethical are these Supreme Court justices?) But their expert took the easy way out by concluding the justices were both entitled to do what they saw fit. I wrote Steele and two of his colleagues to encourage their work at their blog site, Legal Ethics Forum, but have not yet received a response.

That kind of lack of response occasionally gives me pause, I confess, on whether I'm being too judgmental on these matters. Then I think of the evidence that courageous whistle-blowers have brought forward on so many of these issues and at so much risk to their own finances, careers and, in some cases, health. So, we carry on but with great interest in your reactions as readers and ideas for effective action.

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Listed here are excerpts of relevant columns

Huffington Post, Herman Cain Suspending 2012 Campaign For President (VIDEO), Dec. 3, 2011. Herman Cain announced on Saturday that he is suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The news comes in the wake of Cain being accused of having an extramarital affair and sexual harassment charges from more than a decade ago resurfacing. The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza has vehemently denied any wrongdoing amid the controversy. On Saturday, Cain called the allegations "false" and said that they have had a "tremendous" and "painful price" on his family. "That spin hurts," he explained. His wife, Gloria Cain, stood behind him on stage as he spoke in their home state of Georgia. "I am at peace with my God, I am at peace with my wife and she is at peace with me," he said.

Washington Post, Herman Cain says wife did not know of payments to alleged mistress Ginger White, Sandhya Somashekhar, Dec. 1, 2011. Herman Cain said Thursday that he was helping Ginger White with her “month-to-month bills and expenses” and that his wife did not know about the payments or the friendship with the woman, who has alleged that the two had an extramarital affair. In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Cain — a Republican presidential hopeful — repeated his assertion that his relationship with White was platonic, despite the Atlanta businesswoman’s claim this week that she had a 13-year affair with him.

Washington Post, Cain has simple strategy for handling criticism: Blanket denial, David A. Fahrenthold and Sandya Somashekhar, Nov. 30, 2011. Herman Cain, whose problems have transfixed the Republican presidential campaign, has used a different strategy. The businessman often responds to trouble with a flat, short answer: Whatever it is, it isn’t true. His denials usually come with little or no explanation. When other candidates — not to mention economists — began to find flaws in his “9-9-9” tax plan, Cain responded, “All those are simply not true.”

Washington Post, Energy official sees climate ‘catastrophe,’ Juliet Eilperin, Nov. 28, 2011. The chief economist for the International Energy Agency said Monday that current global energy consumption levels put the Earth on a trajectory to warm by 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2100, an outcome he called “a catastrophe for all of us.”  Fatih Birol spoke as delegates from nearly 200 countries convened the opening day of annual U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa.

ABC-TV/Associated Press / Huffington Post, Ginger White Stands By Herman Cain Affair, Nov. 30, 2011. An Atlanta businesswoman said she had a "very casual affair" with Herman Cain and said she doesn't think he should be president. Ginger White stood by her assertion in a nationally broadcast interview, despite Cain's denials. She called the relationship an "on and off" affair. White told ABC's "Good Morning America" that it's "very disappointing that he would call me troubled."

Washington Post, Woman says she and Cain had 13-year affair, Krissah Thompson and Sandhya Somashekhar, Nov. 28, 2011. An Atlanta woman said Monday that she engaged in an extended consensual affair with Herman Cain that began af­ter a busi­ness meeting in the 1990s, continued as he flew her from city to city for dates and ended eight months ago — as Cain launched his presidential campaign.

Politico, Herman Cain affair: Candidate fights back against Ginger White’s claims, Juana Summers and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 28, 2011. An Atlanta businesswoman said Monday she had a 13-year extramarital affair with Herman Cain, prompting an extensive and harsh denial from the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO. But in an extraordinary step for a presidential candidate, Cain preempted the claims on national television.

Fox 5 Atlanta, GA, Ginger White: Herman Cain And I Were 'Involved In A Very Inappropriate' Relationship (VIDEO), Nov. 28, 2011. Ginger White says she and Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain had an affair that lasted more than a decade in a report released by Atlanta-based station Fox 5 on Monday. The Georgia businesswoman said what occurred between herself and Cain was "pretty simple." She explained, "I was aware that he was married. And I was also aware I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship."  White opened up about the alleged affair, which she said went on for thirteen years, over the holiday weekend. Even before White's accusations came to light, Cain sought to do damage control. During an interview on CNN on Monday, the presidential candidate preemptively said he was expecting to face allegations of "an affair for an extended period of time" and denied any wrongdoing. While Cain did not identify White by name during the appearance, he said of his accuser, "It is someone that I know who is an acquaintance that I thought was a friend." The Republican hopeful has vehemently denied their charges. "Here we go again," Cain said on Monday. "I didn't do anything wrong."

Clarence Thomas

Washington Post, Health-care case brings fight over which Supreme Court justices should decide it, Robert Barnes, Nov. 27, 2011. Just a little more than an hour after some House Democrats recently demanded an inquiry into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s ethics, Senate Republicans stepped up the pressure on Justice Elena Kagan to take herself out of the court’s decision on the health-care reform act. The process repeated itself a few days later. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) called for the release of more documents about Kagan’s role as President Obama’s solicitor general; the liberal group People for the American Way came out with another broadside against Thomas. Washington Post, How ethical are these Supreme Court justices? Online Q&A With Ethics Expert John Steele, Nov. 28, 2011.

Savannah Now / Savannah Morning News, A monumental day at Pin Point, Chuck Mobley, Nov. 20, 2011. With a powerful and poignant mixture of preaching and preservation, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the community of Pin Point celebrated the unveiling of a historical marker and the dedication of a heritage museum Saturday. I am a son of Pin Point,” said Thomas, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1991.

Huffington Post, Clarence Thomas Assailed for Alleged Ethical Lapses by More House Dems, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) is turning up the heat on Justice Clarence Thomas based on new information that builds upon previous reports of his alleged ethical lapses. In late September, Slaughter had sent a letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States to request official action on Thomas' multi-year failure to disclose his wife's income from various conservative think tanks and activist organizations. The Judicial Conference is the principal policy-making and administrative body for the federal court system. On Friday, Slaughter submitted a new letter, this time addressed to Chief Justice John Roberts in his capacity as the presiding officer of the Judicial Conference, to update and clarify the September letter.

Common Cause, Hours after considering challenges to health care reform, Supreme Court justices are honored at fundraiser sponsored by law firms representing reform opponents, Mary Boyle, Nov. 14, 2011. Hours after considering whether to hear challenges to national health care reform, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia were honored Thursday at a fundraiser sponsored in part by law firms engaged in the litigation. This is an apparent breach of ethical standards that apply to every other federal judge. That morning, all nine justices met to review appeals from lower federal courts. Their agenda included a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which the court announced today it would hear this term. A few hours later, Scalia and Thomas were honorees and speakers at an annual fundraising dinner for the Federalist Society, which describes itself as “conservatives and libertarians interested” in the law.