'Cuff Him! Media Outlets Describe Cain as 'Caught' Joking About Anita Hill

November 14th, 2011 3:59 PM

Will Herman Cain ever catch on that certain subjects -- such as the alleged sanctity of Anita Hill's sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas -- are no joking matter? (video and audio clips after page break)

A casual quip by Cain about Hill on Nov. 10 has been described by several media outlets in a curiously consistent way.

Here's how it was initially reported by Fox News, with the headline "Herman Cain Cracks Anita Hill Joke" --

At a meet-and-greet event Thursday in Michigan, a man asked Herman Cain if he'd heard the latest news about Anita Hill, who is, of course, known for accusing Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in the 1990s. While the conclusion of the man's question is muffled, he can be heard saying, "You hear the latest news today? Anita Hill is going to come ..."

Cain's response can be heard loud and clear. The GOP candidate, who has been the target of sexual harassment allegations, cracked, "Is she going to endorse me?" The joke drew uproarious laughter from the crowd.

And here's a sampling of headlines on how it was reported elsewhere --

"Cain reportedly caught joking about Anita Hill" (Politico)

"Herman Cain's Anita Hill Crack-Up Caught on Video: 'Is She Going to Endorse Me?' ", New York Daily News

"Herman Cain's Anita Hill Joke Caught on Tape," Huffington Post

"Herman Cain caught on video joking about Anita Hill," The Grio

You get the idea -- the man was "caught," as in, apprehended. As in, after having done something wrong.

Yet Cain made no attempt to hide what he said, making the remark at a campaign event while he is one of the frontrunners for his party's nomination. Anyone in that position can safely assume -- and this has been the case for years -- that whatever is publicly stated will be duly recorded not just by reporters but by citizens with cell phones. In other words, nearly anyone within earshot over the age of 10.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the "caught on tape" media narrative usually reserved for off-the-cuff remarks made when a person isn't aware he or she is being recorded? Such as George W. Bush in 2000 describing New York Times reporter Adam Clymer as a "major league a**hole," or Jesse Jackson saying during the 2008 campaign how he'd like to emasculate Obama, or French president Nicolas Sarkozy claiming that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a liar.

The Cain-as-apprehended-scofflaw meme could also be seen on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show on Thursday when she compared Cain to a homicidal motorist (video here) --

MADDOW (standing in studio while holding steering wheel, her producer Bill Wolff standing next to her dressed as police officer, unnamed Maddow staffer lying on floor with X's taped over her eyes, as if dead, large screen in background showing a street crowded with pedestrians): Um, are you ready for the worst analogy that's ever been acted out on television? (laughs) All right, here's the scene. Where are we? We are on a street. Here, wait. What was I doing? I was driving. What's that? (pointing to staffer on floor). Person I just ran over in a crosswalk! Now, what is the Herman Cain argument in this situation? (Maddow turns to Wolff and pleads her case). Listen, officer, listen! I know, I know. (gesturing toward staffer) But, look at all these other people, walking around safely, safe and sound in this street scene. I drove right past them and they're all fine! I mean, yeah! (gesturing again toward mock victim). But the vast majority of people in the street who I drove by have not been hit by my car, officer.

Not the worst analogy ever on television, though not for lack of trying. Were Maddow so inclined, she could have provided an accurate analogy along the same lines, although this one would lack the staffer acting as a corpse dispatched by Cain. Instead, other Maddow underlings with no apparent injuries would approach producer Wolff and claim that Cain struck them with his car. Cain disputes this and evidence is lacking but hey, it could not be more obvious that he's guilty because, after all, Cain is a Republican.

Quite a contrast with how Maddow described another person in the news a few years back, one who did a bit of actual driving and also worked as a bodyguard -- specifically for Osama bin Laden. Here's Maddow on the now-defunct Air America network in August 2008 talking with New Yorker writer Jonathan Mahler after Salim Hamdan was convicted by military tribunal of providing material support to al Qaeda, having working for bin Laden since 1996 (audio) --

MADDOW: What exactly was he convicted of? I felt like there was a lot of sort of loosy-goosy hinting today in the coverage about the fact that he had these missiles in his vehicle when he was actually apprehended by US forces. As far as I understand it, he wasn't convicted of anything that had anything to do with those missiles. He was convicted of this material support for terrorism charge.

MAHLER: That's right, that's right. He was, in fact, captured with two surface-to-air missiles in the trunk of his car. He had basically, what had happened is that he had just left his wife and daughter, his wife was actually eight months' pregnant at the time, and he had left his wife and daughter at the border of Pakistan. They were basically fleeing the al Qaeda compound and he was captured then sort of on his way back into Afghanistan with these two missiles in his car. But, they were not really part of the conviction. I think the defense argued that there was a civil war going on in Afghanistan at the time and you can't say that he was going to be using these missiles against US forces (said with mild sarcasm). What he was ...

MADDOW: Although it should be noted, it's not like the Northern Alliance or the Taliban had an awesome air force, if they really were surface-to-air missiles.

MAHLER (laughs): Good point, Rachel, good point!

MADDOW: Unless we're talking magic carpets here! (laughs) Yeah, all right, carry on.

MAHLER: But what he was convicted of was material support, so basically what he was convicted of was driving bin Laden around in the aftermath, in particular, of say the 1998 embassy bombings in east Africa, the US embassies that were bombed in east Africa by al Qaeda in 1998. And as bin Laden's driver, Hamdan presumably helped him elude capture in the wake of those attacks.

MADDOW: So literally what he was convicted of was not quitting his job.

MAHLER (laughs): That's one way of looking at it, certainly.

MADDOW: Right? Not that they're saying there was anything criminal about his driving.

MAHLER: What they did was, they convicted a driver of driving.

MADDOW: Yeah! (both laugh)

That's Rachel Maddow for you -- extending the benefit of a doubt to a convicted jihadist, but not to a Republican who hasn't been convicted of anything.