CNN's Cooper Attacks Increasingly Popular Herman Cain with 'Keeping Them Honest' Segment

At the top of Thursday's Anderson Cooper 360, CNN's Cooper ran his first critical "Keeping Them Honest" segment on GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain since he is "no longer a voice on the fringe." Cooper pulled up quotes Cain made months ago, using a "Think Progress" clip, in an effort to hold him accountable for months' worth of statements on Sharia law and Planned Parenthood, among other issues.

Meanwhile, on the same day, President Obama gave a press conference on his jobs bill that the AP found five factual problems with, but which merited only a brief segment on Thursday's Anderson Cooper 360.

Cooper's justification for this being the first "Keeping Them Honest" segment on Cain was that he is now relevant – "no longer a voice on the fringe." He explained that "we are taking a closer look tonight because Republican voters have made him a leading contender for the presidential nominee – or nomination I should say."

Cooper hit Cain for statements he's made on the threat of Sharia law to American society, on not having a Muslim in his administration, on Planned Parenthood, and on the Wall Street protestors.

He dismissed Cain's worries about the threat of Sharia law infiltrating the U.S. court system, even playing a clip of New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie calling such theories "crazy." However, Cooper himself brought up a case in New Jersey of a wife not being able to obtain a restraining order on her Muslim husband who had raped her, because of his religion. The case was eventually overturned on appeal.

"Well, 'Keeping Them Honest' though, the facts simply don't support his notion that there's a threat or some sort of movement toward this," Cooper said of Cain's assertion of the threat of Sharia law infiltrating American courts.

"But by his own admission not having the facts doesn't always stop Herman Cain from saying what's on his mind," Cooper sounded. Of Cain's words, he added, "Some are contradicted by facts, some seem barely tethered to reality. Others though, are matters of opinion, not fact, and have stirred up such controversy they become news."

Also, at the end of the segment Cooper negativelly reported Cain's remarks on the Wall Street protestors, that they were responsible for their own unemployment. After 5 months of silence on Cain and almost two weeks since his Florida straw poll victory, is CNN finally covering Cain because of his criticism of the Wall Street protestors?

A transcript of the segment, which aired on October 6 at 8:00 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

ANDERSON COOPER: Good evening everyone. We begin tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," with the words of Herman Cain. Some are contradicted by facts, some seem barely tethered to reality. Others though, are matters of opinion, not fact, and have stirred up such controversy they become news.

In any case, we are taking a closer look tonight because Republican voters have made him a leading contender for the presidential nominee – or nomination I should say. Last weekend, he won Florida's GOP straw vote. And in the last CBS News poll, he is tied with Mitt Romney for the lead among Republicans, a 12-point surge in just two weeks – not perhaps the makings of our next president or even the likely nominee but it's a sign that Herman Cain is no longer a voice on the fringe.

Tonight, we're taking what he says seriously, beginning with statements he's made about Sharia – or Islamic law in America.

(Video Clip)

HERMAN CAIN, Republican presidential candidate: There is the creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia Law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Now, Herman Cain back in March, responding to a question about whether he'd appoint a Muslim to his cabinet or to the Federal bench. The answer he said was no. He subsequently walked that back saying he's open to appointing anyone as long as they pledge their loyalty to America – which in fact the appointees already do.

As for facts, to back up his larger claim about Sharia law, in a presidential debate in June he said that Sharia law has the influenced court decisions in Oklahoma and New Jersey. Well in New Jersey, there was one incident in 2009. One single incident, a domestic violence case, a judge refused to grant a Muslim woman a restraining order because of her husband's Muslim beliefs. That decision was overturned on appeal. That's it.

Voters in Oklahoma did ban judges from relying in Sharia law when deciding cases, but that was a pre-emptive move, it wasn't based on a judge actually doing that or Muslims in Oklahoma actually attempting to institute Sharia law. On top of that, the Constitution bars any religious test for office and the First Amendment bars any mixing of church and state or mosque and state. Chris Christie, New Jersey's Republican and former U.S. attorney had a simple answer to the Sharia Law question when he was dealing with it this summer.

(Video Clip)

New Jersey Gov. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R): The Sharia law business is crap. It's just crazy. And I'm tired of dealing with the crazies.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Chris Christie in July, the governor of New Jersey. Now, Herman Cain though was not swayed. Here he is just this weekend.

(Video Clip)

CAIN: Call me crazy, but there are too many examples where there has been pushbacks.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, host, ABC's This Week: You don't really mean this, though, do you Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Yes, I do.

AMANPOUR: Sharia law in the United States?

CAIN: Some people would infuse Sharia law in our court system, if we allow it. I honestly believe that. So, even if he calls me crazy, I am going to make sure that they don't infuse it little by little by little. It's not going to be some grand scheme – little by little. So, I don't mind if he calls me crazy. I'm simply saying –

AMANPOUR: You're sticking to it.

CAIN: I'm sticking to it.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Well, "Keeping Them Honest" though, the facts simply don't support his notion that there's a threat or some sort of movement toward this. Cain is also on record criticizing Planned Parenthood, which is not unusual among social conservatives who object to its support for abortion rights.

What is noteworthy, though, is what Cain has said he considers "a plausible theory of genocidal motives for their pro-choice position." Back in 2004, he was running for Senate in Georgia. The Washington Post Senate reporter had covered a campaign appearance at which he told supporters that Planned Parenthood was established to systematically lower the black population, quote, "one of the motivations was killing black babies." As for why, the Post reports he said quote,  "because they didn't want to deal with the problems of illiteracy and poverty."

Now, census figures do show that African-American women have abortions at a much higher rate than whites or Latinos. But as for what motivates Planned Parenthood either now or when the organization began back in early 20th century, we couldn't find any facts to back up Cain's allegation. And Cain hasn't offered any either. But he did tell the Heritage foundation this about Planned Parenthood's founder, quote, "When Margaret Sanger – check my history – started Planned Parenthood, the objective was to put these centers in primarily black communities so they could help kill back babies before they came into the world. The non-partisan organization PolitiFact did check Cain's history – they found no evidence that Margaret Sanger had any such motives, and they spoke to her leading biographer and leading historians at the time. PolitiFact's conclusion, quote, "Cain's claim is a ridiculous cynical play of the race card. We rate it 'Pants on Fire.'"

But by his own admission not having the facts doesn't always stop Herman Cain from saying what's on his mind. Here he is just the other day talking to the Wall Street Journal about the protesters in lower Manhattan and the unemployment crisis.

(Video Clip)

CAIN: I don't have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration. Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: We invited Herman Cain on the program but his staff told us, the candidate is busy all week. The invitation stands. We'll keep asking.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014