Frame Game

Me or Your Lying Phone Records

Herman Cain dares another sexual accuser to prove her story. Bad idea.

Republican presidential candidate businessman Herman Cain following a campaign stop in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Republican presidential candidate businessman Herman Cain  in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

For those of you keeping score at home, Herman Cain now faces a fifth sexual accuser. This time, happily, the alleged misconduct was consensual. Ginger White, an Atlanta businesswoman, says she and Cain had an on-and-off affair for the last 13 years. Cain denies it. Yesterday on CNN, Cain said the three women who previously accused him of sexual harassment “weren’t able to come up with any documentation, any proof.” He said his family “should not be subjected to false accusations that cannot be proved.” As for White, he shrugged, “I have no idea what it is that she’s going to have to show proof.”

Cain will go on playing this game until somebody proves he’s lying—or until we decide that what’s already been divulged is evidence enough.

Let’s recap what we know about Cain’s previous denials. 1) On Oct. 31, he said he was unaware of any settlement of sexual harassment allegations against him. Then he acknowledged that he had been told of an agreement. Then he continued to insist that in his 40-year business career, “that was the only instance of accused sexual abuse—sexual harassment, the only one.” Then we learned that at least two such accusations were settled for a combined $80,000, far more than Cain had indicated.

2) On Nov. 1, Cain suggested that one of his accusers, Karen Kraushaar, had left the National Restaurant Association during his tenure there because her job “performance, it had been told to me by her boss, was not up to par.” But Kraushaar’s boss at her next job told CNN that Kraushaar was “the utmost professional, one of the hardest working individuals I have ever known.”

3) On Nov. 2, former NRA pollster Chris Wilson said of Cain and sexual harassment, “I was around a couple of times when this happened.” Wilson referred to an incident “at a restaurant in Crystal City” in northern Virginia. According to Wilson, “many people were aware of what took place” there.

4) On Nov. 8, Cain said of his third accuser, Sharon Bialek, “‘I don’t even know who this woman is.” Under questioning, he repeated that when he saw her on TV the previous day, “I didn’t recognize the face. I didn’t recognize the name, nor the voice.” But Bialek said she had spoken with Cain on Sept. 30 at a Tea Party event, and Amy Jacobson, a Chicago radio host who was there, confirmed this account. “They were hugging,” Jacobson told the Chicago Sun-Times. “She was inches from his ear,” and Cain was telling her, “Uh, huh. Uh, huh.”

By dismissing these women as liars, Cain risked not just refutation but escalation: Other women might come forward with further allegations. That has now happened. White saw Cain smearing his accusers on David Letterman’s Late Show. And she didn’t like it. Ostensibly, that’s one reason she told her story.

Dale Russell, the reporter who broke the story on Atlanta’s Fox 5 News, asked Cain about White’s allegations. Russell says Cain told him, “I have helped her financially.” When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Cain to describe his relationship with White, Cain said he was just “trying to help a friend because not having a job, etc., and this sort of thing. That’s all there is to the relationship.” Cain acknowledged that he had known White for 13 years and that neither his wife nor anyone else in his family knew her. So, at a minimum, Cain maintained a friendship with White for 13 years and gave or lent her money without telling his wife about her.

White has credibility issues. In her records, Fox 5 found a sexual harassment claim (settled), a bankruptcy filing (23 years ago), evictions (including one in November), and a libel suit by an ex-business partner (judgment entered for the ex-partner, supposedly because White didn’t respond to the suit). So Fox 5 asked White for evidence that the relationship was more than friendly. According to the station:

She showed us some of her cell phone bills that included 61 phone calls or text messages to or from a number starting with 678. She says it is Herman Cain’s private cell phone. The calls were made during four different months—calls or texts made as early as 4:26 in the early morning, and as late as 7:52 at night. The latest were in September of this year. “We’ve never worked together,” said White. “And I can’t imagine someone phoning or texting me for the last two and a half years, just because.”
We texted the number and Herman Cain called us back.

Thirteen-year friendship. A phone call or text message, on average, every other day. At least one contact before 4:30 in the morning. Gave her money. Never told his wife.

And that’s not all. Remember Bialek’s story about Cain “upgrading” her room at the Capitol Hilton? That transaction would have shown up on Cain’s credit card. If it was the NRA’s card, the NRA could check its records. But White’s story opens a new frontier for investigation. According to Fox 5, “She says during the next 13 years, [Cain] would fly her to cities where he was speaking, and he lavished her with gifts. She says they often stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead and dined at The Four Seasons restaurant.”

If Cain flew White to various cities, the airlines would have records showing Cain as the payer and White as the passenger. And correlations with his travel schedule would be hard to explain as “trying to help a friend.”

The best that can be said of Cain, given the evidence so far from eyewitnesses and documents, is that he has a poor memory for women and sexual harassment suits, behaved in ways that disturbed some NRA colleagues, and concealed from his wife a 13-year friendship that included financial assistance and frequent phone contact, sometimes at odd hours. Further documents—Kraushaar’s lawsuit, her job performance reviews, Bialek’s hotel records, White’s flight purchase records, Cain’s text or phone messages to White—could make Cain’s predicament much worse.

That’s what happens when you dare your accusers to prove it. Sometimes they can, and they do.

William Saletan’s latest short takes on the news, via Twitter: