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Monday, December 5, 2011

GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT

When the Herman Cain sexual misconduct allegations surfaced, he was riding high as the leading GOP presidential candidate. Was this a coincidence? Hardly. The matter was dropped only after his popularity declined and he flatly denied the allegations. Perhaps this had something to do with the credibility of his accusers, perhaps he threatened to open a case of whoop-ass litigation thereby frightening them away, or perhaps the backers of the accusers felt they achieved their goal of discrediting Cain as evidenced by his decline in the polls. Whatever the reason, Cain survived but with a tarnished image.

Shortly thereafter a sex scandal erupted at Penn State University involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Although an independent investigation of events has only just begun, the scandal has already ruined the reputation of not only college president Graham Spanier, but legendary football coach Joe Paterno, a man who was nearing retirement at the end of the season. Up until now, Paterno's credentials were impeccable. So much so, the Big 10 had his name engraved on their Football Championship Trophy, but due to the controversy it was permanently removed. Now, the legendary coach's name is Mud regardless of whether or not he played a significant role in the scandal.

That's just the point, in both instances, the people in the spotlight were considered guilty in the court of public opinion, a court which is tightly controlled by the mainstream media who is more interested in ratings than in the truth. Unlike many other countries, our system of jurisprudence is based on the supposition the accused is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law (usually by a jury of one's peers). Unfortunately, this is no longer the case as the media spins the story and inflames the situation to suit their ratings. This obviously complicates finding an unbiased jury for such high profile cases.

In the Cain case, it is still unknown as to who and how the story was leaked to the press which led to a tempest of controversy. Many suspect it was politically motivated which, if true, means the media will use such tactics again even if it means manufacturing a fabricated story. And as we enter the final bell lap of the 2012 presidential elections, you can count on it. The press is less concerned about the position a candidate holds on an issue as much as they are with raking up muck on the person.

Something to understand about our legal system in this country, anyone can initiate a lawsuit against anyone at anytime, right or wrong. As such, do not naively believe the accuser is always correct. Many times, lawsuits are brought on as a scam in the hopes the defendant will settle out of court. Think I'm kidding? Ask any large company about frivolous lawsuits, such as IBM, Microsoft, Boeing, McDonald's, etc., where you take a number and get in line to take the Goliath down. The only thing worse is the mainstream media who is indifferent to a person's guilt or innocence.

If Cain and Paterno are indeed found guilty of improprieties in a court of law, Yes, they should be made to suffer the consequences. However, if they are found innocent, I hope the media has the decency to apologize and help rebuild their reputation with the same fanfare they helped to besmirch it, and the Big 10 engraves Paterno's name back onto the championship trophy. Then again, who am I kidding? Regrettably, we live in a country where you are guilty until proven innocent, particularly in the court of public opinion. Those that control public opinion can influence the outcome of a lot of things, including presidential elections.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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