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March 4th, 2011

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.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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