Ever since the bombshell revelation earlier this week that two former employees had accused GOP presidential frontrunner Herman Cain of sexual harassment in the 1990s, right-wing commentators have been comparing Cain's plight to allegations that once dogged another prominent black conservative: Clarence Thomas. On Tuesday, a political action committee affiliated with Cain sent out a fundraising appeal charging that the "left-wing media" is "engaging in a 'high-tech lynching' by smearing Herman Cain's reputation and character." That's the same phrase Thomas used during his contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991, when Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment. Is the Cain-Thomas comparison apt?
Yes. This is deja vu: "Herman Cain, like Clarence Thomas before him, is the victim of a high-tech liberal lynching," says Peter Bell at The Washington Times. Racism is evident in Cain's "excruciatingly painful vetting process by… media enablers." His detractors simply "do not want to see a real, accomplished, and successful black man in the White House." Their "white guilt" was assuaged with Obama's election, and that's enough for them. "Other blacks need not apply."
"The high tech lynching of Herman Cain"
Nope. These situations have little in common: Just because both Cain and Thomas are black, conservative men "accused of doing vaguely similar things" doesn't mean they are both victims of the same "liberal plot," says Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress. Cain's accusers complained of sexual harassment in the 1990s, and it's highly unlikely that "they envisioned Cain's future presidential campaign and hoped to scuttle it by reenacting the Thomas scandal with themselves in the role of Anita Hill." Any similarities here are merely coincidental.
"Herman Cain & Clarence Thomas have a lot in common, just not in the way conservatives think"
Plus, Cain is being treated more fairly than Thomas was: "Thomas was hit with surprise allegations about sexual harassment in the middle of his confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee," says John Dickerson at Slate. And Anita Hill's assertions "were new, explosive, and adjudicated by a committee unequipped for the task." The allegations against Cain were handled in a professional manner by lawyers and a human-resources department. While Thomas was caught off guard, Politico gave Cain more than a week to respond before publishing. Thomas "was treated differently than nominees that had come before him," while Cain "is simply undergoing a process known as 'running for president.'"
"When Herman met Clarence"