A black conservative is snared in a brewing harassment scandal. Herman Cain’s settlements to avoid sexual harassment claims in the 1990s have caused conservatives to recall the confirmation fight of the other most notable black conservative – Clarence Thomas – who barely achieved confirmation 20 years ago last month.
Thomas called his ordeal – accused of harassment by Anita Hill and impugned during perhaps the most bruising Senate confirmation hearings of recent memory by top Democrats like Sen. Edward Kennedy and now-Vice President Joe Biden – a “high tech lynching.”
A political action committee that backs Herman Cain but is not affiliated with his campaign used that term in a fundraising pitch today.
“They’re at it again. The left is trying to destroy Herman Cain – just like they did to Clarence Thomas,” according to the pitch from Americans for Herman Cain. “They are engaging in a ‘high tech’ lynching by smearing his reputation and attacking his character,” read the email to supporters.
Cain yesterday referred to the reports that he settled sexual harassment claims in the 1990s as a “witch hunt.” And he saw a near-record day of fundraising, according to the campaign – more than $300,000 after Politico published the report about allegations of harassment.
Conservative commentators have leapt to Cain’s defense amidst the allegations, pointing to previous comments by liberal and progressive commentators that they say shows a double standard for African Americans who happen to be conservative.
“I mean that’s why our blacks are so much better than their blacks,” said the conservative pundit Ann Coulter on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program Monday night. “To become a black Republican you don’t just roll into it, you’re not just going with the flow. You have fought against probably your family, probably your neighbors, you have thought everything out. And that’s why we have very impressive blacks in our party.”
There is clearly a skepticism by some progressive and liberal blacks to conservatives about Cain, and not just because he opposes progressive policies. One top Democratic pundit said last week that Cain’s status as a black conservative helps him within the Tea Party.
“One of the things about Herman Cain is, I think that he makes that white Republican base of the party feel okay, feel like they are not racist because they can like this guy,” said Karen Finney, a former DNC spokeswoman and TV pundit, during an appearance on MSNBC last week, before the report by Politico about allegations of harassment. “I think he is giving that base a free pass. And I think they like him because they think he’s a black man who knows his place. I know that’s harsh, but that’s how it sure seems to me.”
“Only in the Democrat Party will a black or a minority be allowed, be permitted without fight to appear on the Supreme Court, sit on the Supreme Court, be the attorney general, run to the presidency or what have you,” railed Rush Limbaugh on Monday, alleging that reports on Cain’s harassment are part of a concerted effort to defeat him.
“Herman Cain is getting too uppity,” said Limbaugh. “The danger is if a black or an Hispanic rises to the top and demonstrates it can happen with conservative principles as the juice, self-reliance, hard work, conservative values, all those things. If you can get there without the Democrat Party putting you there or helping you to get there, you represent the biggest threat the Democrat Party has.”
Cain has said it’s important to move beyond race and said Monday that conservatives are not concerned with President Obama’s race, but with his policies.
“Here’s where we stand on race in America, in my opinion,” he said during an appearance at the National Press Club. “Instead of us coming closer together, we’ve become more divided because of selectively on the part of this administration and its surrogates playing the race card, the class warfare card, the economic inequity card, in order to turn people against one another; the millionaires’ tax, all part of the class warfare card.”
The question about race in America also led Cain to defend the Tea Party against accusations of racism.
Some people have even made the assertion that the only reason that I’m doing so well trying to get the Republican nomination is because white Americans — the Republican Party and conservatives are trying to send a message, we’re not racist. Come to some of our rallies. Join us on our bus tour. You have to follow along because we don’t have enough room on there for all of you. And you will come to the conclusion that I have come to and that we have come to. This many white people can’t pretend that they like me,” he declared.