Appearing on Wednesday's NBC Today, Meet the Press host David Gregory discussed the political fallout of sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain and the possibility of the Republican presidential candidate being urged to drop out, declaring: "Well, there is no, you know, grand wizard in the party right now who can really force the issue." [Audio available here]
The term "grand wizard" was used as a leadership title in the Ku Klux Klan. Gregory later apologized via Twitter: "'Wizard' remark this morning was a very poor choice of words. Did not mean to make that connection at all. Was not thinking. I apologize." While Gregory may have simply used poor phrasing, if a Republican official or conservative commentator had made that kind of remark, Gregory and others in the media would certainly jump on it. [View video after the jump]
Gregory was responding to a question from co-host Ann Curry about potential damage Cain was doing to the GOP: "Well, he's not stepping down and this story's continuing to suck the narrative – the air out of the narrative the Republican Party really wants to tell. Does the party now wish he would just go away?"
Here is a transcript of the November 9 exchange:
ANN CURRY: Star Jones is a former prosecutor and veteran legal commentator. David Gregory is the moderator of Meet the Press. They both now join us, good morning to you both.
STAR JONES: Good morning.
DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Ann.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Damage Control; Grading Cain's Response to Sex Harassment Charges]
CURRY: David, let me start with you. Is Herman Cain now fighting questions about his fundamental – fundamental questions about his credibility as much as he's fighting these allegations of sexual misconduct?
GREGORY: Well, I think he is, Ann. I think we face the prospect now of a number of accusers coming together at once to lay out what Miss Kraushaar has talked about, a body of evidence, which she described to The New York Times against Herman Cain. And look, he was unequivocal about this, that in the case of Miss Bialek, he didn't know her, nothing inappropriate happened and he said rather declaratively, 'I've never acted inappropriately at all.'
There are some things that are verifiable here. You know, Miss Bialek says that he was the one to upgrade her room – in hotel room in Washington – into a suite, presumably there's a record to be found, a receipt, perhaps, that can prove whether she's telling the truth or is he. And somebody is not. How about the details of Miss Kraushaar's settlement agreement with the National Restaurant Association and some more details about what allegedly occurred. He's giving a very cryptic account of that, presumably she can present more. And then you're right, credibility becomes a question.
CURRY: Well, he's not stepping down and this story's continuing to suck the narrative – the air out of the narrative the Republican Party really wants to tell. Does the party now wish he would just go away?
GREGORY: Well, there is no, you know, grand wizard in the party right now who can really force the issue. I've talked to Cain's advisers in Iowa, they think their support is still strong there, that it's not falling. There may be cracks in the foundation according to pollsters I'm talking to, that his numbers may be starting to shift, but right now core support remains there. They think that holding a press conference like he did will ultimately give some people peace of mind, but the big if here, if nothing else comes up.