Iowa Congressman Steve King will serve as moderator of a debate between Republican presidential candidates Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich tomorrow night in Houston, Texas.
The event’s organizers have said the “gossip” about allegations that Cain sexual harassed former employees in the late 1990s will not be discussed and King doesn’t expect the topic to come up at all.
“Only if Speaker Gingrich brings it up. I don’t think Herman Cain will and I don’t intend to,” King said during an interview with Radio Iowa this afternoon. “My view is…you’re innocent until proven guilty. We don’t even have the name of anyone who alleges this at this point.”
King said the whole issue should be off limits until “responsible media” produce an “Anita Hill” — a reference to the woman who came forward during U.S. Senate confirmation hearings to say that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her.
“It may well be that these allegations, even if true, are so devoid of substance that the voters would decide they like Herman Cain a lot more,” King said.
Cain and Gingrich have agreed to focus the debate on entitlement reform.”It’s going to be really interesting to see how the two candidates interact with each other,” King said.
Beyond Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, King is prepared to press the candidates to reveal their plans for dealing with the federal budget deficit and the interest on the federal debt.
“I want to see if we can get the presidential candidates, in this case Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, to address the components of the entitlements and what they would do to slow the growth in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in such a way that we can get ourselves to a balanced budget again,” King said.
The event is billed as a “Lincoln-Douglas” style debate. Earlier this week during an appearance in Pella, Gingrich described the format this way: “Having two people sit down and have a serious conversation, not a Mickey Mouse debate, not a gotcha — but just talk.” Gingrich expects to present “three big” reform proposals.
“My guess is that Herman and I are going to have a very interesting conversation that’s very different than most political stuff,” Gingrich said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to is an interesting two hours of the American people seeing people talk about very large solutions at a time when we have very large problems , as opposed to: ‘In 30 seconds, what’s your position on X?’ which, when you think about it, is pretty silly.”
The debate — which will be 90 minutes long rather than two hours — is set to begin at 8 p.m. Saturday and will be broadcast nationally on C-SPAN. According to the agreed-upon format, King as moderator is to have a limited role, asking just three or four basic questions during the event.
Iowa Democrats have criticized King for “chasing the limelight” and paying more attending to the presidential campaign than to the concerns of his Iowa constituents. King was a panelist at a South Carolina forum for the GOP presidential candidates and this past March King hosted a candidate forum in Des Moines.