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Chan Lowe: The Cain harassment controversy


I’m back in the saddle again, to quote another sometime Oklahoman. Unlike Gene Autry, however, I have no towns named after me in the Sooner State, and I don’t suspect that’s about to change, Hall of Fame or no Hall of Fame.

This latest Herman Cain brouhaha could end up telling us as much about ourselves as it does about him. I am glad that Mr. Cain is vehemently denying the charges against him, because it will give the story legs.

Those of us who are old enough to remember can’t help but hearken back twenty years to the infamous Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, wherein a harassed woman had her reputation trashed by a Senate panel instead of achieving her goal of disqualifying a candidate for a position on the highest bench in the land.

The difference today is that there is more than one accuser, and that there are reports that both were paid hush money by the organization Mr. Cain headed. More important is that the crime of sexual harassment, which in the past had been dismissed—like drunk driving⎯with a wink and a nod, has finally been stigmatized. No longer is the accuser’s reputation automatically on trial, and no longer must she prove herself to be purer than Caesar’s wife, before her allegations will be considered. Many companies now have formal protocols that are immediately launched the moment a harassment accusation is made.

If nothing else, the arc of this story⎯however it is resolved⎯will serve to reveal to us how far we’ve come on this issue since 1991.

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Well, John Edwards just failed to get the charges dismissed for using campaign money to hush up his affair (though if there was ever something that was a legitimate campaign expense, I would think hushing up an affair would be it :-). Presumably the alleged Cain payoffs were pre-campaign though, so he shouldn't have that particular problem.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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