More than two weeks after reports broke that Herman Cain was the subject of sexual harassment complaints, his wife, Gloria, has jumped to her husband’s defense. But as the accusations continue to swirl, and Cain drops in the polls, many wonder whether Gloria Cain’s appearance will do any good.
The former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza has been surpassed in the polls by Newt Gingrich, and now commands only 14 percent of the vote among Republicans, according to a CNN/ORC International Poll released today. More than a third of those polled said Cain should end his campaign, and four in 10 GOP voters believe the accusations are true. The former businessman’s standing has also declined among female voters.
Gloria Cain has so far shied away from the publicity surrounding her husband’s controversy. She canceled a scheduled interview the week the sexual harassment complaints broke. But in an interview taped this weekend, Cain appears with his whole family to paint a more personal picture of the candidate.
“To hear such graphic allegations and know that that would have been something that was totally disrespectful of her as a woman, and I know that’s not the person he is. He totally respects women,” Gloria Cain said in an interview with Greta Van Susteren scheduled to air on Fox News tonight.
Gloria Cain’s public appearance, some say, would’ve had a bigger impact had it come sooner.
“I think the timing would’ve had an effect. Now it just feels like everything is being piled on. It [the story] has taken on legs that I didn’t think it was going to have,” said Myra Gutin, a communications professor at Rider University and author of “The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century.”
Others say that although the appearance may re-establish some of Cain’s credibility, it’s unlikely to help his fledgling campaign.
“It does help when wives come out and act as character witnesses,” said political analyst and ABC News contributor Cokie Roberts. “Clearly, if she’s appealing on the air … that helps, but nobody has ever voted for a candidate because of his wife.
“It helps him to have her there, but I don’t think she can save him. I don’t think that this campaign is salvageable,” Roberts said.
Unlike wives of other presidential candidates, Cain has stayed away from the campaign trail altogether. The last time she appeared together with her husband at an event was when the former businessman announced his candidacy last May.
Herman Cain had said from the outset of his campaign that his wife is a private person who wouldn’t be the traditional political spouse.
“Don’t expect the traditional amount of exposure you normally get from a campaign wife,” Cain said. “She’s not going to do that.”
But the recent scandal has jolted Gloria Cain into the spotlight.
She isn’t the first political wife to be part of a controversy in this campaign cycle. Gingrich’s wife of 16 years, Callista, came under attack last summer for racking up a bill at Tiffany’s and was reputedly one of the reasons behind the mass resignations of his senior aides.
And Gloria Cain certainly isn’t the first wife who has faced reports of a husband’s reputed sexual trysts. As first lady Hillary Clinton famously stood beside husband Bill when he was first accused of infidelities by Gennifer Flowers.
The media frenzy surrounding such allegations can pose a challenge for political wives, especially those who are not used to taking the spotlight, such as Gloria Cain, whose husband has never held political office.
“It’s terrible. Anybody who has ever witnessed a presidential campaign knows that the some of this scrutiny is going to be intense,” Roberts said.
Once they speak publicly, wives are subjected to even more public and media scrutiny.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Gutin said. “Sometimes I think the women who do support their husbands are given points by the public for spousal loyalty. At other times, I think it works against them because people say, how could she do this … stand there and say they support them.”
Two women filed sexual harassment complaints against Herman Cain when he was president of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. One of them, Karen Kraushaar, is now a spokeswoman at Internal Revenue Service. The other womanhas not been identified.
A third woman, Sharon Bialek, said Cain harassed her when she reached out to him for employment help in 1997. She said she did not file a complaint because she was not working for the National Restaurant Association at the time. Bialek, who is represented by powerhouse attorney Gloria Allred, said she told only a handful of people about the incident, which involved Cain reputedly reaching under her skirt and attempting to grope her genitals. Bialek’s then-boyfriend, who was one of the people she did tell, held a press conference today with Allred to confirm Bialek’s allegations.
Gloria Cain told Susteren that the man Bialek described as harassing her is not Herman Cain.
“I looked at especially this last lady and the things that she said, and I’m thinking he would have to have a split personality to do the things that she said,” she said.
Herman Cain met Gloria Etchison when he was a student at Morehouse College and she was a student at Morris Brown College. In his book, “This Is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House,” Cain writes, “Let’s face it; I was first attracted by her looks.”
The two have been married for 43 years.
Gloria Cain was “terrified, scared to death,” when her husband decided he would run for president, Herman Cain wrote in his biography.
When asked by Susteren if she has ever thought about living in the White House, Gloria Cain said she does so very cautiously.
“Sometimes I let myself go there,” she said. But then I try to pull myself back – in that I don’t want to start projecting too far in the future because then I would worry more so I try to take one day at a time and in that way … if or when that happens I have faith that the Lord will have me ready to do whatever I need to do that’s going to help him.”