Is Herman Cain’s Eloquence Too Good To Be True?

By Craig Robinson

Herman Cain is a gifted orator. His ability to stand and deliver a speech is better than those who will end up competing with him for the Republican presidential nomination. But, are Cain’s words his own? Surely most are, but he also seems to be creating a bad habit of lifting other people’s words without referencing the original source.

Last Saturday, a Facebook post by Caree Severson, an Iowa activist who is actively supporting Cain, caught my eye. Severson quoted the beginning of Cain’s speech at The Tea Party Patriots policy summit in Arizona.

Cain said, “Let it be born in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals, but tragedy lies in having no goals to reach for.”

Cain’s words were powerful, but also familiar. While at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, I took a class on peace and non-violence. We spent a lot of time learning about many leaders of the civil rights movement. The words, “Let it be born in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals but tragedy lies in having no goals to reach for” do not belong to Cain, but were originally spoken by Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays.

I like Cain. I think he’s a serious candidate here in Iowa, and I thought that maybe he simply forgot to cite Mays, a well-known Georgian who has a high school named in his honor in Atlanta.

Then today, I see that Cain is making hay over the fact that Khloe Kardashian tweeted the Cain quote, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

There is just one problem. Those are not Cain’s words either. Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer is credited for that phrase. Whoops.

Maybe Cain and those who quote him should make sure they are giving credit where credit is due.

It is also worth noting that the Kardashian’s have been known to charge as much as $25,000 to simply mention and link to a brand or company in a tweet.  One has to wonder if the Kardashian tweet was organic or a paid advertisement.

Photo by Dave Davidson

Update: Response from Cain Campaign

I just want it to be clear that Mr. Cain has never stolen words from any of those people. He considers Dr. Mays one of the primary inspirations of his life, and he would never steal words from a man of whom he is so fond. He has, time and time again, attributed Dr. Mays when quoting him. He just didn’t one time at CPAC.

As far as the Khloe Kardashian story is concerned, we have never been in communication with her or anyone else. Our team simply found it to be humorous that his name was mentioned in her Twitter feed. If you read her timeline, she has a history of pulling quotes from inspirational/ motivational quote aggregates. This is not an isolated incident that motivational quote aggregates share that. Our reply to her was not “making hay” or a publicity ploy. Instead, it was a good-humored attempt to acknowledge that supporters were excited about the tweet mentioning Mr. Cain’s name.

The insinuation that perhaps we could have paid Khloe Kardashian for her tweet is also a stretch. $25,000 is a considerable sum of money, and it would be obviously better spent elsewhere than to ask a reality television star to tweet on our behalf.

We just want to be clear. Plagiarism is a very serious accusation, and I would hope you would take into account our comments when revising your post.

Very best,

Ellen Carmichael
Friends of Herman Cain- Communications Director

From Politico

A spokeswoman for Cain, Ellen Carmichael, said Cain had never actually claimed credit for the quote Kardashian picked up, that nobody on his staff had ever heard him say it, and that she believed Kardashian had found it on a website that aggregates motivational quotes. “None of us had ever heard that quote before,” she said, adding that Cain had never met or spoken to Kardashian and that her tweet was an utter mystery to them.

As for Mays, she said, he’s the former president of Morehouse College and a huge, and oft-cited, influence in Cain’s life.

“He has a painting of the man on the wall of his office,” she said, adding that he regularly credits Mays both for inspirational quotes and for his own life, and that if he failed to attribute the quote once it was not a matter of theft.

“Mr. Cain has been very vocal about his admiration for Dr. Mays, including in his published work,” she said, emailing over an article Cain wrote on Mays.

Cain is the most eloquent man on the right hands down, and to think that Herman Cain needs to be stealing words from someone is baloney,” she said.

“Also, I’d like to add, I’m pretty sure Mr. Cain isn’t the first person to say ‘Stupid people are ruining America,’ as he did in his CPAC speech,” she added.

0 thoughts on “Is Herman Cain’s Eloquence Too Good To Be True?

  1. Geez Craig! Why don’t you just save us all some time and anguish and tell us who is the RINO you intend to support for POTUS with your fabulous website?!?



    The excitement is more than one can stand . . . .well . . . not so much . . .


  2. Craig,

    good job on picking on Carree first off, she was referencing a quote Mr. Cain used; in fact, at the beginning of most of his talks he leads off with a quote. I’m sure that you requiring that he reference them every speech is something he will do immediately… note the sarcasm. Furthermore Mr. Robinson, why don’t you analyze the meat and potatoes of his stances on REAL issues rather than being a nit picky RINO… thanks, have a nice day….


  3. Do you actually bother to research? Or do you simply form entire based on a celeb’s tweet and a facebook post? These “attacks from within” will not stop against Mr. Herman Cain. Why? Because the Republican establishment doesn’t actually want a real conservative in any sort of meaningful position. They are afraid of a man who will actually stand by true conservative principles.


  4. wow Politico did more research than Craig Robinson. How good do you feel about yourself…. In the circles I work in we typically refer to RINOs such as Mr. Robinson as “Skycranes”, which we understand as the world’s largest tool…



  5. I would like to address some of the comments posted above.
    1.  I’m not picking on Caree Severson.  I like Caree and think she is a huge asset to the Cain campaign in Iowa.  I mentioned her only to explain where I found this information.  I will also point out that I did post a comment saying that Cain’s words were actually that of Mays on her Facebook page.

    2. I think the Cain campaign makes a valid point about the Kardashian tweet.  She wrote it, not Cain or a member of his campaign.  

    3. Now knowing that Cain is an admirer of Dr. Mays, I can understand why he would quote him.  However, he should give Mays credit for his words.  I spoke at the University of Iowa Law School last night.  In my remarks I shared three quotes, each time I cited who said them or where they were from.  

    4. What would the reaction be if President Obama gave a speech where he used famous phrases like, “Ask now what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” or “I have a dream.”  I think people would be outraged if President Obama used those words without giving proper credit and respect.

    President Obama was criticized last fall when people learned that the new presidential rug in the oval office had a quote that was attributed to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., when the quote was actually from Theodore Parker.

    Please understand that I don’t have a problem with Cain quoting Mays or any other important figure.  He should just make a point to tell his audience whose words he is using.  Not only are speakers expected to do this, it also helps educate and expand the legacy of a great individual like Mays.


  6. Point taken Mr. Robinson, and your update with the Cain Team’s response is equally appreciated. Just as you pointed out that Mr. Cain should be careful about citing quotes, your article appeared as an attack rather than pointing out his failure to cite the quote’s owner. This being my first time to your site, please don’t take my attack on you personally. I felt it was the best way to achieve a response. Right or wrong on my part, I’m glad you did. I think many of us just hope you are fair in your assessments of all candidates in the race to 12′.

    #skycrane rescinded… lol


  7. Your “response” makes your intent seem noble Craig, yet the headline and piece are still worded like a hit-piece. I hope you’ll be more careful in your “stories” in the future, just as you ask Mr. Cain to be with his attributions.


  8. I made the decision to title this article with the question because I didn’t think a headline like going with “Cain Plagiarizes Civil Rights Leader” for obvious reasons.  


  9. Well I guess the point I can see is, if the POLITICO can write a piece that seems more fair and balanced regarding a Republican political candidate than the one published at “The Iowa Republican”…well I find that rather curious. To put it nicely.

    And to respond to your question #4 above: the comparison is hardly the same. Cain’s mistake was omitting attribution, albeit personally so. Obama’s was flatly mis-appropriating credit…but probably not him personally. And the real answer: Obama was not much criticized then, or ever by my memory. Obama flatly lifted quotes just like Cain apparently did all through the 2008 campaign, and I don’t recall the Obama campaign even caring. Nary a comment in the media…double standards being what they are.


  10. I know Craig Robinson as many of you do. This is his blog, and he always touches a “nerve” with someone (myself included, and probably very high on that list of the content of his blog hitting a negative “nerve”). However, as I said this is HIS blog, and I know that I need to be aware of my weak, or blind, areas too. Therefore, (since I prefer not to be anonymous, as it helps keep me honest and without a “hidden” agenda) I want all of you to know, that although I may disagree with Criag, at times, I do respect him and the work he does put in. I enjoy seeing Craig at events and chatting with him.


  11. Mr. Cain is a very nice fella, but, according to the two bears, the Federal Reserve has never done anything right. They are in fact, reckless with everybody’s life but their own.
    From Mr. Cain’s bio script I quote: “he was appointed to serve on the Economic Growth and Tax Reform Commission in addition serving as Chairman and Member of the Board of Directors for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He then became a senior advisor to the 1996 Dole/Kemp campaign for the Presidency. ” If he could not see through dole, he should stick to pizza delivery scheduling.
    According to the two bears here: , he has never done anything right in his life, accept, get chosen by Pillsbury to be a Vice President of Corporate Systems. Very nice gig if you can get it. Name anyone who could not make money as the largest food conglomerate in the universe. In fact, I just discovered that Pillsbury, (super huge) was purchased by General Mills (Super-Huge). Now, they are Giga-huge, which I presume makes them a tiny subsidiary of the Federal Reserve group planning the dollar collapse as we listen to Cain blame our demise on “lax regulation, wall street bonuses and other diversionary excuses. The board of the Federal Reserve should be in prison awaiting trial.


  12. Two words come to mind here: Joe Biden.

    Remember Biden’s 88 Presidential campaign?  Biden’s campaign crashed to the ground when Biden was caught liberally borrowing from a speech by then British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.  

    Was it plagiarism?  Not outright…but combined with other allegations of past plagiarism knocked Biden out of the 1988 Democratic nomination race after only THREE months.

    Things like this MATTER in political campaigns folks.   That’s why you have to be smart with your messaging.  Be smart in your speaking.   Don’t give anyone, especially the media, any ammunition that might call your character into question… 

    These are basics of political campaigns folks…don’t be laying scorn at Craig’s feet here.  If Herman Cain and his people aren’t wise enough to make sure their T’s are crossed and i’s dotted EVERY day on the trail, then they’re not going to be successful in their campaign.


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