Destroying Herman Cain’s Presidential Candidacy: Politico’s Adolescent Journalism

–Richard E. Vatz

What did he do?

Don’t tell me into what category (“sexual harassment”) his behavior was accused of falling; tell me what he did.

The juvenile, Type-A “journalists” at Politico wrote a tabloid-type article (Cain “breathed audibly” when asked whether he had been accused of harassment) with 100% anonymous sources’ accusing him of engaging in unspecified sexual harassment.

The festering potential scandal threatens to derail his presidential candidacy.

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Is he guilty of that of which he is accused? Well, you cannot answer that question because the writers at Politico won’t say what it is he is accused of doing or revealing who has accused him.

Why not wait until they have more information? Well, that question and the others above were asked of Jonathan Martin, the “senior political reporter” for Politico and its lead reporter for the story, as described by Howard Kurtz on today’s (November 6) Reliable Sources, the CNN media criticism show.

Martin said that Cain made “overtures,” to women, but would not detail them. “Unwanted advances” were never defined. “Overtures” is certainly not a justifiable reason to hector a candidate out of a campaign.

Martin dodged question after question, instead rapidly iterating his own talking points.

At one point he claimed to correct Kurtz’s implication that there was no physical contact between Cain and his accusers by saying that he (Martin) had reported that there was physical contact. Kurtz and columnist Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post asked precisely what the physical contact was. In an almost hilarious imitation of a child speaking loudly so his adult questioner cannot be heard, Martin reiterated that there was “physical contact” and “that’s what our reporting was.” He then proceeded to continue to talk over his questioners and ignore their questions.

Parker and Kurtz did not press it further, apparently out of the need to ensure a level of decorum.

The lack of details, the lack of sources willing to go on the record, and the decision not to identify the accuser caused Kurtz to ask incredulously if there were any “hesitancy” on the part of Martin and his colleagues to go to print with their accusatory piece.

Martin replied that since “the facts” had been corroborated, “I don’t understand what the issue is, frankly.”

Could one imagine a single responsible journalist saying at this point that he didn’t even understand what the issue is?

–Prof. Vatz teaches an advanced class in Media Criticism

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