“In separate interviews, two people who were affiliated with the restaurant group at the time and knew of the complaints said they knew of the second female employee, who had received a payment related to harassment accusations against Mr. Cain during his 1996-99 tenure as president. The two spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid being pulled into the matter publicly.

“The two people who were affiliated with the group said the second woman similarly had complained about what she said had been Mr. Cain’s inappropriate conduct toward her. One of them said she had been taken aback by one interaction in particular while they were traveling, but this person declined to give details. He said he believed the allegation of harassment was not the only issue involved in the woman’s termination package.”

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“The Washington Post independently obtained the names of the women and tried to contact both, but several e-mails and telephone messages were not returned. A man who answered the door at the Maryland home of one of the women said they had ‘nothing to say.’

“Several key questions remained unanswered Monday night, including the full nature of the alleged encounters, the results of any internal inquiries and the resolutions that the women reached with the National Restaurant Association. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the association said it would not comment on ‘personnel issues,’ citing a ‘long-standing policy.’…

“‘He’s forceful, he’s front and center, knocking it down,’ conservative strategist Greg Mueller said. ‘Frankly, unless someone comes forward, or there’s some kind of conflict in his forceful knock-down of the story, I don’t know that it’s going to have legs for much longer.’

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“Meanwhile, one group of Republicans was conspicuously silent: POLITICO contacted every one of Cain’s major opponents for the GOP presidential nomination and none of them would comment directly on the controversy embroiling Cain’s campaign…

“Weighing in on Fox News, Karl Rove and Ed Rollins – former aides to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, respectively – argued for full disclosure. ‘If these allegations are not true, say they aren’t true and put it behind you,’ Rove said ahead of Cain’s Monday statements. ‘If not, better get everything out sooner rather than later because in a situation like this, if there is something there, that something going to come out.’

“He needs to find out what the facts are, get out with the facts before he gets nicked apart, and I think at the end of the day, hopefully, it was nothing,’ said Rollins, echoing Rove. “If it is something, it’ll be out there.'”

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“Granted, we’re talking about a first-day story. Politico may be holding the salient facts in reserve for its follow-ups so it can build its case against Cain a day at a time. If and when they publish them I may change my tune. But right now the subject is today’s story. Until Cain’s accusers speak forthrightly on the record, until Politico shares the underlying ‘documentation describing the allegations’ that it claims to possess, readers have the right to gripe about the charges against Cain being as clear as dappled light on fog.

“Before we drag Cain to The Hague’s highest HR court for trial, I’d like to know exactly what Cain said to the women. Did he sexually proposition them? Did he boast about his virility in a vulgar manner in their presence? Did he ask women who worked for him intrusive questions about their sex lives?…

“Sometimes the headline of a piece reveals its inadequacies, which seems to be the case with Politico‘s ‘Exclusive: Two women accused Herman Cain of inappropriate behavior.’ If the art of journalism is located in the specifics, the Politico piece deserves just one star.

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“Obviously, this description leaves open a myriad of possibilities, from the boorish to the legally actionable. Certainly, it prompts readers to scratch their heads as they try to remember what in the late 1990s constituted a physical gesture that was not overtly sexual but discomfiting. (I checked. The Macarena came out in the mid-1990s.) Suggestions from a boss to ‘meet in my suite’ are equally ambiguous. Did Cain have a sheaf of strategy papers on the desk or a CD player with a Michael Bolton track cued up?

Therein is the problem with this story. If the facts as published were part of a memo to Politico’s editors, they would amount to a first-rate tip on a story. If Cain turns out to be a serial harasser, it will surely tarnish his image as the 2012 campaign’s most likable fresh face…

“Sexual harassment is a potent charge. It has brought down CEOs, congressmen and senators, and very nearly pushed Bill Clinton out of the presidency. But in this case, it remains unclear whether this was merely a great tip or an actual bombshell. I respect Politico’s decision to keep the names of the women out of this, although they will surely emerge. Yet, the basic details of this ‘harassment’ are essential so readers can judge its significance.”

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“A couple of weeks ago I predicted in a video that Cain would benefit greatly from a conservative media which has a profound incentive to make sure he does not go the way of Perry and Bachmann. There is no doubt that Fox News, Matt Drudge and talk radio would be profoundly hurt economically if Romney swept Iowa and New Hampshire. This would not only strip them of months of content, but force them to talk for at least almost a year about a guy who is neither exciting nor loved by their customer base…

“Facilitating Cain’s shot at the nomination would be an easy way for the conservative media to achieve almost all of their goals. He elongates and spices up the nominating process, he gives them the chance to stand up for a ‘true’ conservative and prove they aren’t racist, and his nomination would create a lucrative general election while insuring Obama’s reelection. It is a no lose proposition for them and many will act on these incentives either consciously or subconsciously. To be clear, there will be no ‘conspiracy’ here, just very cynical/savvy/selfish people all working in what they perceive to be in their self interest…

“What is particularly stunning about the way that this is all going down is how incredibly similar Cain’s situation is to what happened with Obama in 2008.

“Here we have an inexperienced, charismatic black man who just a few years earlier had been in the political wilderness who is now suddenly neck and neck with an establishment candidate that no one really loves. The ideological media pushes his candidacy because he is good for the storyline/ratings and when legitimate scandal hits they rally around him and pretend that the allegations are politically motivated and all about race.”

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Via Mediaite.