Herman Cain and Lie Detector Tests

In what may be the weirdest twist in the accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain, he said at a press conference on Tuesday that he would be willing to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence — if someone would just give him a good reason to do so:

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Tuesday that he would be willing to take a lie detector test to rebut multiple claims that he engaged in sexual harassment in the 1990s, though he seemed to stop short of promising to do so.

“Yes. I absolutely would,” Cain said when asked about taking a test. “But I’m not going to do that unless I have a good reason to do that. Of course I would be willing to do a lie detector test.”

First of all, lie detector tests are not a good means of telling whether someone is lying or not. But even if they were, this is truly a WTF statement. You’d take one if someone would give you a good reason? What more would you possibly need for a reason than the current situation? If he took a lie detector test and passed, regardless of the reality, it would be viewed as extremely convincing to voters and would likely end the controversy he’s caught in. Apparently that isn’t enough. Or he’s just full of shit. You decide.

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  • over on Language Log there’s a bit on this that’s worth reading.

  • Doug Little

    I think it would be difficult to try and catch him in a lie as I believe he probably thinks his behavior was just fine at the time and if he was a habitual offender probably doesn’t even remember the incidents to do with the particular people that have come forward. It would all swing on the quality of questions that were asked of him, I would be very interested to see who was actually going to administer the test.

  • Richardelguru, thanks for the link! It was very informative. I especially like this:

    “After examining two dozen studies conducted over 30 years, the researchers concluded that the various voice stress technologies were performing, in general, at a level no better than chance — a person flipping a coin would be equally good at detecting deception.”

    So Herman dredged up a PI who wallows at his own level of, er, integrity. Not surprising. This is so low that we can expect to see it on Faux news any moment.

  • Randomfactor

    Any voice analyzer “lie detector” which survives a Republican debate intact can be assumed to be nonfunctional.

  • MikeMa

    I choose full of shit.

  • I think that for Hermano-a-mano, getting out of the hole he’s in, might want to use one of these:


  • Phillip IV

    Cain has made a lot of these mindbendy firmly-on-both-sides-of-the-issue statements, but I’ll give him a pass on this one. It’s an unfair question, and what he gave is really the only answer a politician can give: I’m willing to do it (because saying otherwise would be considered and admission of guilt) but not now (because it might make the issue worse even in cases of innocence).

  • timberwoof

    “Lie detector” tests are really just emotion detector tests. If someone gets all worked up about a conversation, a prosecutor will try to convince a jury that this means they’re lying. Mythbusters did an episode on lie detectors and found that they can be beaten. I have a personal experience with a “polygraph examination” that make me seriously doubt their effectiveness.

    So one of the women was emotional when she recounted the story of her assault … and the PI wants her not to be emotional about it? WTF is that? And Cain himself is not emotional when he says he can’t remember the event … of course not; that’s the problem!

    So these “lie detector” systems add nothing to what is known about the events.

    Cain’s a dork anyway. Obama has staffers digging up dirt on him and everybody else in the field and prepping debate strategies. It will be a bloodbath no matter which one of those turkeys gets nominated.

  • abb3w

    Actually, I don’t see the point of a lie detector test. His supporters would simply consider a “liar” measure to be mis-measurement due to nervousness, while opponents (including myself) would suspect a “non-liar” measure to imply he’s self-deluded and/or sociopathic enough to believe his own lies.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    From the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Oct. 8, 2002:

    Polygraph testing too flawed for security screening

  • Aquaria

    Polygraphs are bullshit. What Cain will do is provide a list of questions he’ll answer. If he fucks up, he’ll go to another polygraph con artist, and another and so on until he finds one that will say he’s not lying. By then, he’s had a chance to rehears his stories.

    A polygraph doesn’t measure emotions. It measures supposed physical reactions to emotions. But not everybody gets hyper when they lie. Some people out there are calm when they do it. I’d bet that Ted Bundy would have passed one, with ease. Lying was normal for him. Other people can get around it with something as simple as a tack.

  • “Jerry, it’s not a lie if you believe it.” — George Castanza

  • I say none of the above. He likes publicity, and ending the controversy one way or another would get his name off the front pages.