Larry Mantle

The power of mental images

Monday morning on “AirTalk,” we opened with the non-detailed allegations by three unidentified women that GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain had sexually harassed them during the time he headed the National Restaurant Association trade and lobbying group. 

Our focus was on how, despite the reports and Cain’s initially poorly prepared response, he was still getting significant support in polls of GOP voters.  This didn’t seem surprising to me, given the vagueness of the allegations and the range in seriousness the claims could represent, even if they were true.

However, this morning’s news conference with Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred and her client, Sharon Bialek of Chicago, significantly raises the challenge for Cain.  Regardless of the truth of her claim, her specific recounting of his alleged effort to grope her and push her head onto his lap now creates a mental picture that the other allegations didn’t.

To combat this image, if it’s fabricated, means Cain’s team has to find a way to create a competing visual image of what the job-seeking interaction truly was between the two.  If they can’t do that, either because the account is correct or Cain doesn’t remember his interaction with her, I don’t see how he can overcome this hit.

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