Cain vs The Media

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

At StakeHerman Cain, a Republican presidential hopeful, recently hired Atlanta-based attorney, L. Lin Wood, to, well, do something or other with respect to the sexual harassment accusations leveled against him.  "I'm not here to scare anyone off," Wood said, adding that people should "think twice" before publicly accusing anyone of wrongdoing. Wood has a history of high-profile defamation suits, and bringing such a lawyer to a media event seems designed precisely to, oh you know, scare off potential accusers.  

But there might be another aim to the show.  "Mr. Cain is being tried in the court of public opinion based on accusations that are improbable and vague," Wood said.  "The media -- bless your heart -- you turn our system of justice into one of guilt by accusation."  Okay, now we're talking -- it's the media's fault.  And what's Wood's role here?  "I've been brought in to bring an element of fairness to the accusations being brought," Wood said. Look at Wood's litigation history and you'll find that a great many lawsuits against media outlets: suing a newspaper on behalf of a security guard cleared of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park bombing; suing various media outlets on behalf of JonBenét Ramsey's parents; suing a Vanity Fair writer on behalf of Gary Condit, the former Congressman romantically linked to his intern but never made an official suspect in her murder.  

So, Cain fires a shot over the bow of the media. Writers, newspapers, lo, even websites, better be careful. And he gets a lot of free coverage about the fact that he brought out a defamation lawyer. If he's thinking about suing, maybe he didn't really do it, right? As the article notes, winning such a case would be extremely difficult because Cain is a public figure and would have to show that the accuser or media outlet knew the accusation was false or showed reckless disregard for whether it was false.  But winning a lawsuit, or even bringing one -- does he really want to sit for a deposition for sworn testimony on the subject? -- might not be the point.