Public relations students, professors weigh in on Cain sex scandal

By Frank Mahoney|

Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfathers Pizza and former head of the National Restaurant Association, is the latest political figure to have a scandal threaten his campaign. It has recently surfaced that Cain was accused by four women of sexual harassment while he was in charge at the National Restaurant Association.

Cain recently became a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. He is currently tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the latest Gallup poll.

But the allegations could hurt these numbers.

Students and professors of public relations at Flagler College understand the importance of having a good plan set for crises like this.

“Just like a celebrity, a politician is a brand in their own right,” said public relations professor Rosemary Tutt, a certified public relations counselor. “The biggest problem is [Cain] did not protect his own brand.”

Flagler student Keith Hayes agrees.

“I feel like the campaign dealt with this in a poor manner,” said Hayes, a communication major with a track in both public relations and media production.

Cain has stated on Fox News that he was falsely accused of sexual harassment in the past.

Speaking publicly about the issue is something Hayes said is very important when it comes to public relations.

“Look at the BP crisis,” said Hayes. “[BP] immediately claimed responsibility and put a plan in place to not only help the people in New Orleans, but took responsibility for their actions and dealt with it in a mature manner.”

Cain has been criticized for not taking the next step and not taking responsibility. Tutt said the media is just a hungry dog and to get rid of it, public figures have to stick to a plan.

“Develop key messages based on statements made on Fox News and stay with them,” Tutt said. “Eventually, the media will get tired of chewing on this bone and move to something else.”

Cain held a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 7. The conference was after celebrity attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference for her client, Sharon Bialek. Bialek is the fourth women to claim that Cain sexually harassed her. Cain said he could pass a lie detector test, but never said he would take one.

Cain also blamed the “Democratic machine” for creating these accusations.

Tutt cites the actions of former President Bill Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as models for surviving a scandal as a political figure.

“Both [Clinton and James] had a solid reputation prior to their incidents,” she said. “Just like any company or organization needs a good reputation.”

However, Tutt said Cain may not have the same clout and respect that Clinton and Thomas have.

“Clinton was an orator,” Tutt said. “He could talk his way out of anything.”

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