In a recent interview with Fox News Herman Cain’s Chief of Staff, Mark Block, stated that Herman Cain’s campaign was considering suing Politico.com.
On the scandal, Block said, “we have ran a different kind of campaign and we are not going to play by the rules that the media has established. The fact of the matter — the Politico article — if it was held up to the same standards as the code ethics for journalism, the people involved in that would be fired.” When asked if the Cain campaign was considering suing Politico Block responded, “It’s being discussed.”
Before I touch on the lack of legal standing Cain has, I think its important to touch on how ridiculous this “counter attack” rebuttal is. Instead of addressing the issue, the Cain campaign has opted instead to simply attack the media in general. It might work, because hitting the mainstream media is conservative bread and butter, but it has no basis in reality.
I generally agree with those who are critical of the media in their reporting of personal issues of public figures as if they were relevant to the job. Cases of adultery and whatnot are just not substantively relevant to politics (except in cases where great hypocrisy exists). These scandals are distracting and are generally irrelevant. However, there is a huge distinction between sexual harassment and these other scandals, because sexual harassment can be a criminal act/tort. Unquestionably, this is fair game. Politico has in no way gone further than the media did when they went after Clinton or Weiner.
No matter your sympathies concerning personal scandal’s part in politics, it should be more than obvious to everyone that Politico’s reporting is quite in line with today’s journalistic standards and ethics. It might not be right, but after the last twenty years of non-stop scandalization of politics this is what you get. The only other accusations the Cain camp has made is that they are critical of Politico’s use of anonymous sources, but this is not only generally irrelevant, but particularly totally irrelevant given the fact that Cain has confirmed much of Politico’s story. This baseless attack against the media and the notion that they are suing anyone are ridiculous. Both are more feathers in their “we will say anything without regard for basic facts” hat.
This article goes into the potential for Cain to sue Politico for defamation, but it misses some critical stuff. As the article correctly points out, because virtually everything Politico has published has been corroborated by either Cain himself, what Politico has done is not libel at all because it is true. But what if it turns out Politico is actually lying and something is false? Without getting too deep into case law weeds, because Cain is a public figure (running for president) he must demonstrate “actual malice” in any defamation or invasion of privacy claim. This essentially means that he not only has to demonstrate that what was published was not true (which is it), but he has to demonstrate that politico knew it wasn’t true and published it anyway. Doing so would be very difficult if not imposible.
However, there is one privacy tort that has little to no concern for accuracy of statements. Unfortunately for Cain, the “publication of embarrassing facts” is extremely unlikely to hold up in court. The report is clearly of a legitimate public concern, because it is both a legal matter and a matter concerning a presidential candidate, and is therefore not eligible for protection.
Frankly, I think the media needs to be tougher on Herman Cain and Mark Block. They need to be called out on their vague and baseless criticism.