As it stands, Herman Cain has been accused of sexual harassment (and worse) by four women. His damage control attempts have been somewhat lacking in efficacy.
The first woman to go public was Sharon Bialek. She alleges that Cain groped her and pushed her head towards his groin, apparently using the offer of a job in an attempt to acquire sex. Cain has, as might be imagined, denied these allegations.
Cain’s main defense against this accusation has been to focus on Bialek’s financial problems. Bialek filled for bankruptcy in 1991 and 2001. From a logical standpoint, this approach does have some merit. After all, the credibility of a source depends (in part) on whether the source is an interested or disinterested party. Since Bialek could make money from such accusations, this would provide a financial motivation that could justify regarding her as an interested party and thus lower her credibility. Naturally, such accusations of interest do not directly refute her claims-to think otherwise would be to commit an ad homimen fallacy.
Since this situation is a “he said, she said” sort of scenario, if Cain (and his people) can show that Bialek has less credibility than Cain, then it would be reasonable to accept Cain’s word over Bialek’s (all other things being equal). However, Cain faces some serious challenges here.
The first is that Bialek is only one of four women who have made accusations against Cain. The second is that settlements (or agreements) were reached involving Herman Cain and some of his accusers when he was heading up the National Restaurant Association. The third is that Bialek has said that she has no intention to seek financial benefits from this situation (for example, she did not sell her story) and this undercuts the attempt to show that she is making the accusation out of a desire for financial gain (and even if she were, the accusation could still be true).
It could be countered that while Bialek is not motivated by the hope of financial gain, she could still be an interested party on other grounds. While she has said that she is a Republican, the Republicans are currently divided into factions around the candidates. As such, it could be claimed that she is acting out of a political motivation and this lowers her credibility.
If it were shown that she had a political interest in the matter, then this would lower her credibility. Of course, it can be countered that Cain has a political motivation in deny the accusations. Also, even if she did have a political interest in the matter, her claim could still be true. After all, whether her claim is true or not depends on the facts, not on her interests or character.
While Herman Cain is being at least somewhat civil in his damage control, others are not. Rush Limbaugh, for example, has succeeded (once again) in disgusting me with his response to the situation.
When discussing the matter, Limbaugh pronounced Bialek’s name as”Buy-A-Lick” and made a licking/slurping sound. Given that Bialek alleges that Cain was trying to trade a job for oral sex, this seems rather pernicious. After all, Bialek is claiming that she was a victim of what seems to be legally sexual assault and this sort of commentary is certainly hateful and hurtful towards women who have been victims (which might include Bialek). While this is part of Rush’s persona, it is not any less reprehensible. After all, questions about credibility can be raised in a civilized and adult manner.
Oddly enough, Rush’s anger was also directed at Bialek’s thirteen year old son. According to Bialek, she asked her son whether she should tell or not and he said that she should do the right thing. Rush said “You think Obama doesn’t love hearing this? A 13-year-old tattle-tale. I mean, that is a brownshirt preview here. Exactly what big government types like.”
Rush seems to be really packing the fallacies in here. He starts by what appears to be the guilt by association fallacy by trying to link the boy to Obama. After that, he uses a dsyphemism (possibly an ad hominem as well) by calling the boy a tattletale. He then launches the argumentum ad hiterlum. This is an ad homimem variation is which a person is attacked by comparing that person to Hitler or a Nazi. He then finishes with a repeat of guilt by association by saying that this is what big government likes.
In addition to being what appears to be a string of fallacies, his claims seem rather bizarre. How, for example, is what the boy did (telling his mother to do the right thing) a “brownshirt preview”? Is he really saying that Obama and big government (whatever that means) are big fans of thirteen year old tattle-tales? What could that even mean? Perhaps it is just a reflex of his to throw in Obama, Nazis and Big Government when attacking anything, whether it makes sense or not. In any case, these tactics do get him plenty of attention-thus showing, once again, that if he is crazy he is crazy like a fox.
Interestingly, if Rush thinks that the boy is a tattletale (rather than a liar) that would imply that he thinks that Bialek’s accusation has merit. After all, a tattletale is someone who tells on someone who has done something.
In any case, none of Rush’s bashing disproves Bialek’s claims. The truth (or falsity) of these claims is independent of the success or failure of Rush’s rhetoric.