Herman Cain’s “Sexual Harassment”: High-Tech Lynching 2.0

Twenty years after the media’s “high-tech lynching” of Clarence Thomas, the Left’s tactics have not changed a bit.

The political world is reeling over allegations that unlikely Republican frontrunner Herman Cain sexually harassed two women while he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association, which he headed 1996-1999. The two women, who accused Cain of acting “inappropriately,” reportedly received settlements “in the five-figure range.”

What was Cain’s offense? No one really knows, presumably including Cain and the reporters who published the story. Politico reports: “These incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.” (Emphasis added.)

Cain announced just as this article was being written that one “gesture” in question was that Cain once placed his hand at chin-level, saying, “You’re about the same height as my wife.” He did not touch the woman, Cain said, but she felt “uncomfortable” about being sized up.

Mary Ann Cricchio, who served on the National Restaurant Association board at the time, had a different assessment. Cricchio said, “Herman treated everyone great.”

This morning, Cain took to the airwaves to defend himself. Cain told Fox News reporter Jenna Lee, “I’ve never sexually harassed anyone, and yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association. And I say falsely, because it turned out after the investigation to be baseless.”

(Story continues following video.)

Later in the day, he said substantially the same thing at the National Press Club.

Cain alluded to the allegations at the American Enterprise Institute earlier, saying, “I am an unconventional candidate, and yes, I do have a sense of humor, and some people have a problem with that.”

But when it comes to angry, gold-digging feminists, jokes can be deadly serious. The Austin-based law firm of Melton & Kumler answered the question, “What’s the difference between friendly joking and sexual harassment?” by saying, “The difference lies in how they are received.” If a woman is offended, the joke constitutes sexual harassment; if not, you may be the life of the party.

The infiltration of radical feminism into the legal system has criminalized a host of otherwise innocuous behavior, discussion, or unconscious actions and left besieged employers walking on eggshells. Mary Boland wrote in her book Sexual Harassment in the Work Place that an off-the-cuff reference to “dumb blondes” or stating the fact that women are more emotional than men could land you in court. In 2004’s Lust v. Sealy Inc. a litigant won $150,000 in damages (reduced from $300,000) after “proving” a boss was sexist by citing such outrageous statements as “oh, isn’t that just like a woman to say something like that,” and “you’re being a blonde again today.” A court allowed a case to proceed because a Wisconsin Agriculture Department employee made a joke about keeping women “barefoot and pregnant.” Another did so after a man nicknamed a co-worker who was expecting “Prego.”

The United Nations’ definition of sexual harassment includes such offensive savagery as “Hanging around a person,” “Standing close or brushing up against a person,” “Looking a person up and down,” “Personal questions about social or sexual life,” and “Referring to an adult as a girl.”

In the new Orwellian world of sexual harassment star chambers, one need not say or do anything to get hauled before the bench. The act of staring alone — even if caused by a medical condition — could be grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit. A secretary sued the town administrator of Grafton, Massachusetts, claiming he stared at her chest. Russell Connor’s ophthalmologist diagnosed him with alternating intermittent exotropia, which rendered him unable to control his eye. A judge threw the case out of court, but a judicial activist on the First Circuit Court of Appeals allowed it to go forward.  (Connor was only exonerated after standing before a jury of his peers.)

Herman Cain could have performed any of these unforgivable actions and run afoul of “sexual harassment” norms, because ultimately, there aren’t any. The American Association of University Women defines workplace harassment as “unwanted or unwelcome sexual behavior that interferes with your life,” a definition broad enough to include an unrequited request for a date.

The primary determinant of sexual harassment is not its content but its consent. The only question is whether the boorish behavior is welcome or not. If a boss propositions an employee and she accepts, that is not sexual harassment; it is a promotion in the making. If a woman decides a man is beneath her station and thus unworthy of her cheap affections, the man no longer risks rejection but also litigation.

What would be the disincentive? The nation lionizes victims, especially female victims, reinforcing the stereotypes working women intended to overcome. If the case comes out well, she may get her own Lifetime movie. Financial incentives abound. The Human Resource Institute has estimated the average sexual harassment claim totals $650,000, not including another $85,000 in legal costs for the loser.

In this case, two women managed to shake down a large corporation for anywhere from $10,000 to $90,000 on the basis of a non-sexual gesture. And now the Left is using it to sink a rising Republican star, whose ethnic identity it recently questioned.

One can never say with certainty what transpires between a man and a woman in their private lives, but the media have presented no evidence of wrongdoing. This is a hit-and-run to take out a black conservative.

The Left desperately wishes to destroy any minority or woman who does not hew to the left-wing party line: minorities are oppressed victims who cannot get ahead in the United States and must rely upon the government to redistribute wealth and opportunity.

Two decades ago, the victim was Clarence Thomas. Since then, the Left has targeted Marilyn Quayle, Paula Jones, Colin Powell, Juanita Broaddrick, Monica Lewinsky (briefly), Alan Keyes, John McWhorter, Bill Cosby, Sarah Palin, Bristol Palin, Michele Bachmann, and an untold cast of thousands who dared to think unapproved thoughts while containing too much melanin or estrogen.

The Left is a social clique and bullying circle. If you belong, the gang will destroy your enemies. If you demur, the gang will destroy you.