Since his 2012 Republican presidential bid, Herman Cain, YouTube Sensation and former National Restaurant Association CEO, has been able to handle his PR pretty well. That is until he encountered a full-blown political crisis. Amidst sexual harassment allegations by two former female co-workers, Cain and his campaign staff have been trying to do damage control, but there appear to be too many inconsistencies within his story.
After POLITICO published its report on October 30th, the Cain campaign said in a statement that the “political trade press are now casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts.” But the campaign did not initially deny the details of the report.
When the story dropped, the campaign’s immediate response was to claim that their candidate had been viciously targeted by the media. While this reaction wasn’t a bad strategic move, the detailed nature of the Politico article has made it tough for Cain to simply stand by his original statement.
The following Monday, Cain and his staff’s conflicting accounts began to pour in by the gallon. At first, Cain said that he was unaware of any settlements and denied any knowledge of the case, but later provided details regarding one settlement during several interviews.
For example, Cain responded to the Washington Examiner’s questions about the amount of money in the settlement, stating one woman was given “three months’ salary…I don’t remember.” And when asked about the specifics of the allegations, Cain’s staff responded with vague language, referring questions to the National Restaurant Association or downright dodging the questions completely.
Cain may think he’s doing the right thing – dripping pieces of information to the media as he sees fit – but a good campaign can weather a story like this if the accused can get right in front of it and address it directly and honestly, from the beginning.
That is not what Cain is doing. Controlling the Narrative is a key element in handling a crisis of this magnitude. At this point, the media has taken the story and run with it, threatening Cain’s campaign momentum and his chances of preserving his frontrunner spot.
Cain is also failing to Validate the Concern: his interviews are riddled with denial and deflection. Cain is playing the role of victim in this scenario, stating that the accusations from these two anonymous sources are baseless and false. The fact that Cain can’t quite recall exactly what his actions were leading up to this story is unsettling and possibly damaging.
The final step for Cain is to Take Action . At this point, he’s already spoken to various news outlets, declaring that these allegations were spurious and absent of any proof, but rhetoric alone will not save him from the ongoing barrage of questions. The fewer answers he has, the more questions he will be asked.
Be Heard: Can Herman Cain survive this scandal? What should be his next plan of action?