Weather Updates

Herman Cain and Joe Paterno have things in common

Updated: December 13, 2011 8:38AM

The two most talked about scandals this week have a lot in common.

The sexual harassment allegations being made against Herman Cain expose a peculiar phenomenon also present in the scandal of Penn State icon Joe Paterno.

Although both of these men are being accused of despicable behavior, people have rallied to their sides as if they are unfortunate victims.

The revelation that Paterno, an icon in the sport of college football, had knowledge that his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was allegedly sexually abusing boys should have been devastating to the students at Penn State.

These students should have been shocked that their hero did not call police when he learned that a former assistant coach was taking sexual advantage of troubled boys enrolled in a sports program.

Instead of lamenting the callous act, the students held a pep rally outside the coach’s house.

It was a disgusting display.

Paterno is suspected of being part of a cover-up at Penn State that not only tarnishes the school’s athletic program, but also calls into question the ethics of the entire university.

Late Wednesday, Paterno was fired — as he should have been. I admit I am not a big football fan. In fact, the only games I get excited about are the ones that my grandchildren play. But over the last few days, I’ve come to realize just how huge Paterno is. Sports announcers keep telling us that he is the winningest and most revered college football coach in the history of the sport.

But what about those eight boys Sandusky is accused of molesting? We haven’t heard much about them. What will their lives become?

Despite Paterno’s celebrity status, how can he be let off this hook?

Unfortunately, Paterno’s legacy of winning football games will be seen by many as being more important than his failure to turn in an alleged sexual predator who had been on his staff.

Similar to the Paterno situation, the scandal enveloping Herman Cain affirms that the more things change the more things stay the same.

Given the seriousness of the accusations swirling around him, you’d think Cain’s support would have eroded significantly.

Because when the second blond, white woman stepped forward with lurid details of his alleged sexual harassment, even his staunchest supporters must have realized that Cain doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of snagging the GOP presidential nomination.

All he can do now is make a bad situation worse. So far, four women — two of them anonymous — have accused Cain of sexually harassing them in the 1990s.

Yet volunteers are still trying to convince voters that the charges leveled against the candidate are bogus.

One claim could have been passed off as bogus. But four? Not a chance.

Even so, on Tuesday afternoon, Cain held a press conference and boldly declared that his getting out of the race “ain’t going to happen.”

Let me say right here I don’t believe a word Cain has said about the allegations, because I’ve walked in his accusers’ heels. I understand why women are reluctant to complain about men who step over the line: They don’t want to be whiners. They don’t want to cause any trouble. They need their jobs.

If the boss steps back over that line before the unwanted advances turn into something far uglier, many women put the incident behind them and get on with their lives.

But if that person were to run for political office, and the allegations of sexual harassment were to surface, and that person tried to paint me as a liar, well, I’d get Gloria Allred too.

By painting his accusers as liars and troubled women, “Cain the businessman” is acting like “Cain the politician.” His handling of these allegations is strictly old school.

Still, while Cain’s accusers will be put down, the political system will continue to prop this candidate up

Unfortunately, too often, winning trumps all else.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.