I’ve long had a special interest in the topic of false accusations—or rather, how to tell false from true, when the only evidence is the word of one party against another. Whether the charge be date rape, recovered memories of childhood molestation at the hands of a relative, sexual harassment, or just raunchy behavior of the type some of his accusers have claimed for Cain; if there’s no evidence, what’s a person to do?
It’s one thing to insist that Cain should “confront” the sexual harassment issue and the charges by giving a press conference. It’s another to see how it’s possible to effectively do so.
Cain gave an interview today (not a press conference) that constituted some sort of “confrontation” of the charges: categorical denial of harassing anyone, and calling Bialek a liar. But because of the number of accusers (and the amorphous quality of some of the charges), the situation resembles an almost endless game of whack-a-mole.
In such a situation, how can the accused give a full answer to the charges? What would a full answer be?
If the charges are true, admit it and pull out of the race. But if not, how does a person answer a fabrication, especially if there are no witnesses? What can a person say besides “it didn’t happen” or “it didn’t happen that way” or “she’s a liar?”
One thing to do is smear the women–dig into their pasts and find the flaws. That opens Cain (or anyone in his position) up to headlines like this one in Politico: “Herman Cain campaign launches attack on accuser Sharon Bialek.” It makes him seem like a thug, even though he’s just pointing out facts about her somewhat shady financial past.
This lady, Karen Kraushaar (one of the two woman at the NRA who got a settlement), seems to be a more credible witness than Bialek in terms of her past. But she has yet to describe exactly what Cain is supposed to have done that constituted her cause of action and for which she received a relatively small payment from the NRA. She also says she wants to have a joint conference with other accusers: why? To compound the effect of the accusations?
And therein lies an important point: a great many people say that now that there are many accusers the accusations become more credible. To me, each accusation is only as credible as (a) the person making it, and (b) the charges themselves. The numbers matter a little, but not that much, although there’s probably a tipping point where they would matter to me more.
Another circumstance that would enhance the charges’ believability would be if several woman had come forward independently—each without knowing about the other—alleging similar behavior on Cain’s part. That might be the case with the two accusers from the NRA, if they hadn’t spoken to each other or compared notes before each made her claim, but we don’t yet know.
That’s not the case with Bialek, who only has come forward recently after all the publicity rather than before it. And as far as her having supposedly told a friend or a boyfriend about Cain’s behavior at the time it happened, that’s slightly more convincing but not very. Unfortunately, people will lie to back each other up; I’ve seen it happen way too many times.
Let me repeat: I don’t know whether the women accusing Cain are telling the truth. They very well might be. It’s also possible that some are and some aren’t. But I do know that it is far too easy to lie about these matters if one has a mind to—for money, attention, anger, politics, or self-delusion—and that the more people who do so against a single prominent person, the more likely it is that their false charges will stick.