Conservatives Play Race Card for Cain

Don't talk to the right wing about racism -- unless one of its own is under attack.

Rush Limbaugh; Herman Cain; Ann Coulter (Getty Images)

"It's really about blacks and Hispanics getting uppity."

"It's a high-tech lynching."

"What's next, folks? A cartoon on MSNBC showing Herman Cain with huge lips eating a watermelon?"

Reading these quotes would make you think you were eavesdropping on a conversation among liberals. Charges of racism, "uppity" Negroes being punished for their arrogance and racist caricatures are usually the stuff of conversation on Tom Joyner's radio show. But no! Yesterday's flurry of race cards was played by some of the leading figures in American conservatism.

It was their collective response to the report that GOP front-runner Herman Cain had settled two sexual harassment lawsuits when he headed the National Restaurant Association, a lobbying group for the food industry, in the 1990s. Cain gave inconsistent answers to questions raised by the article throughout the day, feeding the media frenzy about the latest disclosure.

First he brushed off questions about the charges, and then he admitted that the organization had settled with two women who had accused him of improper language and gestures. He denied knowledge of a settlement, then admitted that there had been a payoff. Throughout, Cain strongly denied that he ever engaged in sexual harassment.

It was all red meat for a news media baffled by Cain's rise to the top of the GOP presidential pool. But it set off a furor among conservatives who saw Cain and other conservative minorities as victims of the all-powerful liberal media. Rush Limbaugh compared Cain's problems to those of Marco Rubio, the U.S. senator from Florida whose frequently told story of his family fleeing Castro turned out to be untrue: Apparently the Rubios left Cuba several years before Castro came to power.

In a 12-minute exposition on the subject, Limbaugh called the reporting on Cain a "hit job." "Anything good that happens to any black or Hispanic in American politics can only happen via the Democrat Party. If it happens elsewhere, we’re going to destroy those people a la Clarence Thomas," he said. Of course, this is the same Limbaugh who once played a tune called "Barack the Magic Negro." And Limbaugh has himself called the president "uppity."

Ann Coulter evoked the Clarence Thomas parallel when she dredged up the famous phrase from his nomination hearings 20 years ago. At that time it was Thomas who made the statement that effectively neutralized questions about inappropriate sexual conduct raised by attorney Anita Hill. This is the same Ann Coulter who has called the Rev. Al Sharpton a "fat, race-baiting black man" and who defended the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens as being unfairly accused of racism.

Conservative Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center turned to the "plantation" analogy that Cain himself has used in complaining that black Americans have been "brainwashed" into not being open-minded toward Republicans: "In the eyes of the liberal media, Herman Cain is just another uppity black American who has had the audacity to leave the liberal plantation. So they must destroy him, just as they tried destroying Clarence Thomas."