Friday may bring the first public word from one of the women who made sexual harassment allegations against GOP frontrunner Herman Cain while he ran the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, and who agreed to remain silent about those allegations in return for a cash settlement.
The woman who advised Anita Hill about coming forward with her allegations about future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, however, says Cain's accusers have reason to fear going public. Cain supporters are already invoking comparisons to Thomas's 1991 polarizing confirmation hearings, with a new ad that uses footage of Thomas delivering his famous quote about enduring a "high-tech lynching."
One of the Cain accusers, a Maryland woman who works for the federal government, wants to release a written statement via her lawyer to dispute Cain's strong denials of the allegations about his tenure at the National Restaurant Association.
The woman's lawyer, Joel Bennett, has emailed the attorney for the NRA a draft public statement for review. The National Restaurant Association confirmed Thursday that Bennett had provided a statement. "Our outside counsel was contacted by Mr. Bennett today and was asked to provide a response to a proposed statement by tomorrow afternoon," said Sue Hensley, the NRA's senior vice president for public affairs communications. "We are currently reviewing the document, and we plan to respond tomorrow."
But both of the women who accused Cain of sexual harassment and received settlements are said to fear the consequences of going public.
"There's good reason for them to be afraid," said Ricki Seidman, the political operative who persuaded Anita Hill to go public during Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings.
Seidman said she sees parallels with how the women who accused Cain are now being treated.
"They've been called all kinds of names already by people who have no idea who they are," said Seidman. But she also said that in a political campaign, that's par for the course.
Cain defenders are already trying to turn the tables, with a new commercial that paints the allegations as fabrications from rivals and the liberal media, with pointed comparisons to Clarence Thomas.
The ad, produced by a group called Americans for Herman Cain, ends with Thomas's closing statement at his 1991 confirmation hearings. "This is a circus," Thomas says in a video clip. "It's a national disgrace, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves."
Americans for Herman Cain is a SuperPac that is independent of the presidential campaign.