Herman Cain has said that he takes sexual harassment allegations “seriously” — but he wasn’t so serious when he was caught on tape Thursday yucking it up over alleged harassment victim Anita Hill.
Fox News was the first to air video of Cain getting a big belly laugh as a supporter was joking about Hill, a woman who claimed that she had been sexually harassed by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas while he supervised her at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 1980s.
“He spoke about … such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes,” Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991. She said Thomas had on several occasions described “his own sexual prowess.”
At least four women have also accused Cain of sexual harassment during his time as head of the National Restaurant Association. Like Thomas before him, Cain has completely denied any wrongdoing, but claimed to ABC News, “I have taken [the allegations] seriously.”
Defenders of Cain have even gone as far as to refer to the scandal as a “high-tech lynching,” a term first coined during Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation.
At a campaign event in Kalamazoo, Michigan Thursday, Cain couldn’t contain his laughter at a supporter’s joke about Hill.
“Did you hear the latest news today?” the supporter asked. “Anita Hill is going to …,” but the rest of the joke was inaudible.
Cain doubled over in laughter for a moment and finally raised up his arms, asking with a grin, “Is she going to endorse me?”
The Cain campaign quickly dismissed the controversy.
“It was a joke,” Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told The New York Times, adding that the candidate was only “repeating what a supporter said.”
At the CNBC Republican presidential debate Wednesday, the former CEO had referred to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the most powerful woman in the U.S. Congress, as “Princess Nancy.”
All of this may leave some voters wondering about Cain’s esteem for women, but he has dismissed those concerns.
“I have been a professional. I respect women,” he declared at a tele-townhall event last week.
Update: Cain responded Friday by saying the remarks about Hill were not “intended to be an insult.”
“We walked into this room and someone said that – one of my supporters said, ‘Anita Hill was trying to contact you’ and my response was, ‘Is she going to endorse me?’” the candidate told journalist Fred Dicker. “He said it in a humorous way. I gave a humorous response.”
“It was in no way intended to be an insult to Anita Hill or anybody else.”
Watch this video from Fox News’s Special Report with Bret Baier, broadcast Nov. 10, 2011.