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How should Herman Cain respond?

November 8, 2011 - Jim Denison, PhD

Herman Cain pauses as he addresses a Northern Virginia Technology Council breakfast meeting in McLean, Virginia, November 2, 2011 (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Is Herman Cain guilty of sexual harassment?  Sharon Bialek is now the fourth woman to claim that he is.  When the Republican candidate for president was head of the National Restaurant Association, she worked for the organization’s education foundation.  After she was let go, she came to Cain for guidance in getting a new job.  She claims that he then acted in an inappropriate manner.

Last night the Georgia businessman told talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, “There is not an ounce of truth to all these allegations.”  He described Bialek’s charge as “totally fabricated” and vowed to “set the record straight” at a news conference this afternoon.  Prior to these claims against him, Cain was riding a surge of popularity.  How should voters feel about his candidacy now?

We are caught between two competing sentiments.  One is a central tenet of our jurisprudence: a person is innocent until proven guilty.  The “presumption of innocence” is embodied in the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments to our Constitution.  If this were a trial and we were the jury, we would be required to assume Cain’s innocence unless his accusers proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  So far nothing like that has occurred–it is their word against his.  If no compelling proof emerges, as a defendant he would be found not guilty.

On the other hand, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”  Skeptics ask, Why would these women lie about Cain’s conduct?  In response, his campaign has blamed the media and other political camps for the firestorm.  Before Bialek’s accusation, he insisted that he would not play by “the media’s rules,” telling reporters last Saturday night that he wouldn’t answer questions about the matter again.  We’ll see what he says on the subject later today.

What does the Bible tell him to do?  Initiate reconciliation.  If he is in the right, he should take the first step: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15).  If he is in the wrong, he should do the same: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).  However his accusers respond, he will have fulfilled his responsibility to make things right.

I doubt that Herman Cain will read this morning’s essay, so let’s apply the issue to ourselves.  Do you have unresolved problems in any of your relationships?  Is there someone with whom you need to initiate reconciliation today?  Paul could say, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16).  Let’s do the same.

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