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.