What if a professor of yours held a study session for an upcoming exam but simply dodged every single question? That frustration you would hypothetically feel is probably similar to how political journalists feel about Herman Cain. However, it is also how every citizen should feel toward the state of political campaigns.
“Don’t even go there,” Cain said to a reporter before he could ask a question on the sexual harassment issue. A couple of days prior, the same reporter had broached the subject, but this time Cain wasn’t having any of it. The reporter responded by asking if he could ask a question at all, to which Cain said no. Cain then went on to say, if only to himself, that the reporter should be sent a copy of the journalistic code of ethics.
There is however, one glaring issue with this comment. Seeking truth is a part of the journalistic code of ethics; asking questions is the reporter’s job. The mere mention of any code of ethics brings up a different aspect of the situation too, because there are many parts of the Cain campaign’s response that are marred with impropriety.
The journalistic code of ethics, while in this situation was followed by the reporter, is a voluntary policy, unenforceable. Luckily for Cain, there is no presidential campaign code of ethics.
What happened next was the Cain campaign attempting to smear anything and everything that they saw fit, speaking out about everyone from the accusers, to the media and even going as far as other Republican presidential candidates’ campaigns.
Cain began by blaming the Rick Perry campaign for leaking the story. He continued by trying to tarnish the women who have come out against him. Sharon Bialek, the first woman to publicly make charges against Cain, has been attacked from every direction from Cain defenders. This includes everything from her financial history to the slander that she is a gold digger. These assaults failed when she reported that she isn’t being paid for her story, and this is when they resorted to calling her blond, and therefore, unreliable.
There are even conservative commentators who believe sexual harassment itself is merely a scam, like National Review Online commentator John Derbyshire, who wrote: “Is there anyone who thinks sexual harassment is a real thing? For heaven’s sake. Aren’t there any grown-ups around?” Derbyshire’s question about their being grown-ups around is appropriate, though: It takes a grown-up to acknowledge that sexual harassment is real and to not just attack the victim.
Another conservative attack was questioning why it took these women 14 years to make their charges. All of these people should take a look in the mirror and realize that one reason is the barrage of attacks the women are now receiving.
Herman Cain may not enjoy the role of the media, but to question its ethical role in finding the truth to legitimate claims is an entirely different story. He also might not personally be attacking his accusers like his Republican counterparts, but allowing this bombardment to continue is a real ethical issue as well.
However, another important issue at stake is Cain’s belief that he is being victimized. It is the job of the media to reveal everything about those running for president and to give the voters everything they need to make their decision.
Asking questions about sexual harassment is by no means out of bounds for a reporter. When four women come out and say that Herman Cain has a history of harassment, it is a serious claim. And Cain needs to realize that saying “Don’t even go there,” is not enough, and allowing attacks on the women on unrelated claims is itself unethical.