The XX Factor

Is Herman Cain’s Lawyer the Anti-Gloria Allred?

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 8: Republican presidential candidate and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain (L) waits as his lawyer Lin Wood speaks at a press conference November 8, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Cain is facing pressure after a fourth woman came forward Monday to accuse Cain of inappropriate behavior when he was while CEO of the National Restaurant Association. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Karen Kraushaar, one of the women  who has accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment, now says she won’t have further comment until Cain’s other alleged victims join her and fellow accuser Sharon Bialek in speaking out publicly. For the other women’s continued silence she blames, among other people, Cain’s new lawyer, L. Lin Wood. As the New York Times explains:

“…[Krahshaar] and Ms. Bialek have come under intense scrutiny in the news media, amplified by the remarks of highly critical conservative commentators who have rallied to Mr. Cain’s defense. And Mr. Cain has retained a powerful Atlanta lawyer, L. Lin Wood, who has issued stern warnings that he will consider taking legal action against Mr. Cain’s accusers.”

Here, for anyone who missed it, is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article featuring what the Times so delicately calls Wood’s “warnings” (but which sound an awful lot like threats).

Even before Wood opened his mouth, however, his very arrival on the scene was itself a sort of warning to accusers and would-be-accusers:  That’s because he is a celebrity lawyer well known for successful defamation claims on behalf of clients who say they’ve been wrongly accused, including Richard Jewell, Gary Condit, and JonBenet Ramsey’s family.  We haven’t heard much else about Wood this week, despite his outrageous remarks, in part because Bialek’s own lawyer, Gloria Allred, singlehandedly exceeded this week’s quota for colorful pieces about lawyers.  (Allred, recall, is the feminist -turned-celebrity lawyer who specializes in going on TV on behalf of women who’ve accused famous men— men like Roman Polanski, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and now  Herman Cain —of bad things.)  

If this were the movie, Wood would be perfectly suited for his new role as the anti-Allred, and not just because Allred represents the accuser and he the accused. I am thinking of the very different stories the two lawyers tell about what launched their careers, stories that both involve bad things happening to women.  As Allred told the New York Times last year, when she was a 25-year-old teacher, she was raped.  An illegal abortion followed, which landed her in an intensive-care unit where, “while almost bleeding to death, a nurse told her, ‘This will teach you a lesson.’” From this followed a realization “that there was something systematic in the way women are treated” and her enrollment in law school.

On to Wood. In 1999, a Denver Rocky Mountain News profile told how Wood traces his decision to become a lawyer to his hometown of Macon, Georgia, his parents’ frequent, violent arguments, and the tragedy that followed:

“After a school dance, the then 16-year-old Lin came home to find his father crying and his mother lying battered and lifeless in a bedroom. His father said she fell in the bathtub, a story he clung to throughout his life. The evidence showed otherwise. But Lin still loved his father, so he got him a lawyer. ‘It could just as easily have been my mother who killed my father,’ he says. ‘They both were capable of violence.’ ‘I would have fought just as hard for her.’

He sold his mother’s car and raised money for his father’s defense. Eventually, L. Lin Wood Sr. pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, a charge reduced from first-degree murder. He served two years in prison. Watching the judicial system work in his father’s case cinched Lin Wood Jr.’s decision to become a lawyer.”

So Allred became a lawyer because she was raped. Wood became a lawyer because he was inspired by his experience helping his father escape a lengthy prison sentence for killing his own mother. And now they’re facing off in an ugly story that is proving once and for all that that sexual harassment is, 20 years after Anita Hill, no big deal. (Republican voters seem to care much more about an “oops.”) Narratively speaking, it is all just way too rich.

It would be easy to make too much of Wood’s life story—lawyers have all sorts of non-personal reasons for taking on cases, and Wood has previously represented at least one prototypical “Allred client.”  But since Allred’s life story is constantly referenced in articles describing her as a crusading feminist avenger, I can’t resist revisiting Wood’s story in the same spirit. It may not be a particularly becoming connection to draw. But Wood’s threat to Karen Kraushaar wasn’t particularly becoming either.