You often see it in politics. An embarrassing or damaging story breaks about a politician, and instead of directly confronting the issue with a single, fully honest answer, the politician makes things much worse, causing the story to drag on by offering a series of inconsistent statements, hoping to cover up the truth. We recently saw this with Rep. Anthony Wiener, who caused a damaging story to go on for weeks with denials that were later proved false after a string of inconsistent interviews.
Now we are seeing Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain being damaged by a constantly shifting set of explanations and denials. His ever changing story about the decade old sexual harassment complaints will surely keep the story in the news for much longer, while the appearance of dishonesty may end up doing more damage to his campaign than the original accusations.
Cain began yesterday denying that he knew anything about a possible settlement for one of the women he allegedly harassed, but by the end of the day he was telling interviewers details about the settlement and the complaints against him. Cain also said the National Restaurant Association’s general counsel and human resource department conducted an investigation of the incident, but the head of human resources at the time, whom one would expect to be informed, said she was unfamiliar with any complaints.
The inconsistencies in Cain’s statements can create stories of their own that could become even more damaging to him than the old harassment allegations. The story can become not about what happened in the 90s but whether or not Cain recently lied.
If Cain is caught making several dishonest statements about the incidents, it could destroy his reputation with voters of being a straight shooter. Cain currently benefits from strong positive intensity numbers, but his ever changing story and inconsistencies make him appear to be just another dishonest politician. His support could quickly disappear.
Some voters will forgive politicians if they made mistakes in the past, but they will rarely still trust them if they are caught being dishonest in the present.