Republican political consultant Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, says she thinks GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain can get past the allegations of sexual harassment against him that have been uncovered in the past week - arguing that, at the end of the day, "this is not the issue that's going to decide the election."
Cheney, in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, criticized the media for the "feeding frenzy" she believes has accompanied the discovery of 1990s-era accusations against Cain, and suggested that the basis for the allegations was less than concrete.
"I think what we've heard now are a lot of accusations. Not a lot of facts," Cheney told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "Having been through campaigns at a very high level, I can tell you that facts are often one of the first casualties."
Last Sunday, Politico reported that two women had filed sexual harassment complaints against Cain in the 1990s during his tenure at the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Cain has vehemently denied any wrongdoing on his part since the report broke, but details surrounding the allegations continued to surface throughout the week - at times appearing in sharp contrast with Cain's version of events.
On Friday, a lawyer for one of the women who filed a complaint against Cain in the '90s gave a statement citing "very specific instances" of "a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances" directed at the woman by Cain while he was CEO of the NRA.
"Mr. Cain knows the incidents that were alleged," said the lawyer, Joel Bennett, who added his client would not be speaking or revealing her identity. "If he chooses not to remember or not acknowledge those, that's his issue."
Cain has given conflicting accounts of his knowledge of the accusations and the settlements, which he first claimed to be unaware of, before discussing them specifically. Cain at one point said he was unsure if the women received paid settlements following their allegations, although later he said he thought one of the women had received "[m]aybe three months' salary. I don't remember. It might have been two months." One woman, and another woman reportedly received $45,000.,/P>
Cheney suggested that the allegations against Cain were not worth covering, and said the media was showing "interest" in "other topics" of the campaign rather than how to create jobs and grow the economy, calling it "frustrating"
"The intensity of the focus we've seen on the debate in particular on the Republican debates this time around, and the impact that those debate performances have had, tells you that what the American voters really care about is the substance," she said. "This is not the issue that's going to decide the election. Who can create jobs and grow the economy is what will decide both the Republican primary and also, ultimately, the general election."
Republican strategist Ed Gillespie said he thought Republican voters would pick up on a sense of "unfairness" in how liberals are portraying Cain, and that ultimately "this is not as damaging to Herman Cain." He did concede, however, that it might not be the "end of the story" regarding the harassment allegations.
"I don't know if it's the end of the story. Obviously any time you're talking about sexual harassment instead of your tax reform plan you're not on the message you want to be on," Gillespie told Schieffer. "I do think that a lot of Republican voters think that, you know, when there's an anonymous, you know, allegationm that there's a sense amongst many Republicans that ... that's not exactly fair."
He also said he thought Republicans perceived liberals as having a "special disdain for black conservatives" - and that, consequently, "they feel that there's an unfairness that is at play here."
"So I think that actually, you know, this is not as damaging to Herman Cain," he said, adding that because this was shaping up to be an "unconventional" year in politics, "you're not seeing yet as much damage as you would expect in other years or with other campaigns."
Still, some Republicans believe that the former Godfather's Pizza CEO will continue to be haunted by the accusations - particularly because some think his conflicting accounts regarding the allegations appear less than straightforward.
"He's not out of this yet," said Ed Rollins, GOP strategist and former campaign manager to Michele Bachmann. "He can't basically say, 'I'm not going to answer any more questions on this,' as facts come forward.
"Even though it's an unconventional campaign with an unconventional candidate, Republicans want to win," Rollins said. "We want a candidate who can go up against Obama and beat him." Rollins said he did not believe Cain has answered the questions correctly, "or has seen the last of this."
Rollins argued, too, that while Cain - or other Republicans - might not like the media's coverage of the accusations, it is a reality of modern campaigning.
"It's a tough game," Rollins said. "The media is a very important part of this process. It's the eyes of the American public. You may not always like what they do or what you do. At the end of the day you have to deal with it. Otherwise you lock yourself in a closet and do nothing but commercials on television. That's not a successful strategy."
Perry supporter Ken Blackwell, also appearing on the show, disputed the Cain camp's accusations that the Perry campaign had leaked the story to Politico, and argued that if Cain doesn't "get everything out in the open" soon, he will almost certainly face the consequences later on.
"It wasn't Rick Perry," Blackwell said, of the Cain campaign's repeated allegations. "I think the Cain campaign has started to walk back from that accusation. It was a shame that he started to point fingers at a time when he said, you know, folks should not point fingers without facts. It was a contradiction."
He added that Cain could "get through this" if he got in front of the story now.
"I think what Herman has to do is to get everything out in the open," Blackwell said. "This is still an open and a live case. The NRA has basically said that the women who filed the complaints are free to speak on this issue. If they choose not to speak until Cain is successful in winning some primaries, it would hurt him then. So he has a real interest in getting it out, getting it out as soon as he can and tell the truth. As long as he tells the truth, gets it out and has a consistent story, I think he can get through this."