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Duly Noted

Thursday, Dec 1, 2011, 3:02 pm

The ‘One Man, One Woman’ Thing…

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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Bittle Sugar Art, Creative Commons.

Rachel Maddow argued that Herman Cain's 13-year affair is politically relevant because Cain is a self-appointed defender of traditional marriage in his political life:

To be fair, I think the reason this latest allegation about Mr. Cain is news is not because this allegation is that he’s done something illegal or even because it’s anyone’s business what any two adults do inside or outside the bounds of their own marriage. Private life is private life, even for public figures. Unless those public figures choose to build their political careers on criticizing other people’s private lives and proclaiming the superiority of their own private life. In the case of Mr. Cain, he has campaigned for office by saying that he will “defend the sacred institution of marriage against liberals who want to destroy it.” Because of that, Mr. Cain now has a sacred-institution glass house problem.

Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple registers an odd objection to Maddow's line of reasoning:

That may be something of an exaggeration, but the fabric of Maddow’s argument has a stretchy feel to it. The Cain statement cited in her monologue appears to concern marriage as a compact between a man and a woman, period. As in, no gay marriage. It’s far more of an anti-gay plank, accordingly, than it is pro-fidelity. If someone were to come forward with allegations that Cain was gay, in other words, his position on marriage would serve as a far more powerful basis for broadcasting that story. [Emphasis added.]

What, now? According to Wemple a hypothetical gay affair would be relevant, but a straight affair is not. But, as Wemple pointed out, Cain is a self-appointed defender of marriage between a man and a woman. Keeping a mistress for 13 years falls squarely outside his politically charged definition of traditional marriage.

Point: Maddow.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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