Political Animal


October 31, 2011 8:00 AM Cain faces allegations of ‘inappropriate behavior’

By Steve Benen

Citing multiple sources, Politico reported overnight that Herman Cain, during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, was accused by “at least two female employees” of “inappropriate behavior.” The women, who left the trade group, complained to colleagues and senior association officials that Cain engaged in “sexually suggestive behavior,” which made them “angry and uncomfortable.”

The association ultimately gave them financial payouts “in the five-figure range” to leave the group, but the agreement “included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.”

The exact nature of the allegations aren’t spelled out in the report, but Cain allegedly engaged in conversations “filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature,” as well as “physical gestures” that were “regarded as improper in a professional relationship.”

How a political candidate responds to charges like these is important. In this case, Cain and his campaign team were pressed for an explanation over 10 days, but repeatedly dodged questions about whether the Republican faced allegations of sexual harassment, as well as questions about the financial settlements with the accusers.

It led to this startling moment yesterday.

In a tense sidewalk encounter Sunday morning outside the Washington bureau of CBS News — where the Republican contender had just completed an interview on “Face the Nation” — Cain evaded a series of questions about sexual harassment allegations.

Cain said he has “had thousands of people working for me” at different businesses over the years and could not comment “until I see some facts or some concrete evidence.” His campaign staff was given the name of one woman who complained last week, and it was repeated to Cain on Sunday. He responded, “I am not going to comment on that.”

He was then asked, “Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life of harassment by a woman?”

He breathed audibly, glared at the reporter and stayed silent for several seconds. After the question was repeated three times, he responded by asking the reporter, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”

That’s not a denial. Indeed, it’s not even close.

In fact, once Politico reported its findings, the Cain campaign lashed out wildly, condemning the “political trade press,” and insisting that “liberals” are targeting Cain because he’s conservative. The initial statement, however, did not deny the details of the report. When J.D. Gordon, a Cain spokesperson, appeared on Fox News last night, he also refused to say whether the allegations are true.

It took a while, but this morning, the Cain campaign eventually said it’s denying the accuracy of the Politico report.

Cain, it turns out, will be in D.C. today for an event at the National Press Club. Expect a media circus — if the candidate keeps his commitment and shows up.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Danp on October 31, 2011 8:12 AM:

    So much for the candidate you'd most like to have a beer with.

  • maryQ on October 31, 2011 8:13 AM:

    A few things:
    1. Soooooooo not an attack by Democrats and liberals, who would live nothing more for this joke of a candidate to continue to drag down the likely nominee and party favorite
    2. I'm really not looking forward to re-living the Clarence Thomas media circus
    3. A five figure settlement with a non-disclosure agreement? What kind of incompetent lawyers did these women hire? This kind of silence is worth way more than five figures. They have my sympathy.

  • c u n d gulag on October 31, 2011 8:13 AM:

    Remember, for Conservatives, victimization is a virtue.

    As long as you can keep making is seem like it's the Liberals who are making you victim.

    If they can twist this into Cain being accused of sexual harassment by Liberal Un-shaved Armpitted FemiNazi Lesbians, it can endear him to the ignorati.

    They loves them some Clarence Thomas!

  • N.Wells on October 31, 2011 8:18 AM:

    Yes, the heck with the presidency - this man is Supreme Court material.

  • Jeff In Ohio on October 31, 2011 8:19 AM:

    Gee, I think the story here is how the MSM has been unable to ask the real questions with challenging follow ups about Cain's beliefs (abortion is genocide, 999 is a plan, Obama ain't really black), but is comfortable asking him on a sidewalk how often he beats his wife.

    The guys a kook. Talking naughty at work should be the least of his problems. And the GOP base...well, unless he's been boinking a rentboy, they aren't going to give a shit.

  • blondie on October 31, 2011 8:28 AM:

    Interestingly, there's a lot of speculation that the attack on Cain comes from someone in Republican circles ... Perry's camp? Romney's?

  • FRP on October 31, 2011 8:30 AM:

    I agree with the idea that asking following questions which tend to explore the vast world of difference in succession from the pretty pink ponies of right wing explanations , into the mud and blood one finds in the wake of right wingers clumsy stumble bum dance with thangs .
    Never going to hoppon , becuz no gude Scotsman would submit to that .
    That will be true of these poor souls that seek to exercise unrestrained authority , for as long as the Easter Bunny lays chocolate eggs in Spring .

  • martin on October 31, 2011 8:43 AM:

    @maryQ2. I'm really not looking forward to re-living the Clarence Thomas media circus

    If whatever rightwing radio crank I was listening to last night is any indication, expect a revival of the Monica Lewinski circus and how "The Press" said defended Clinton but is attacking Cain.

  • jj on October 31, 2011 8:43 AM:

    Did anyone else watch Perry's speech online yesterday, I think he was drunk!

  • berttheclock on October 31, 2011 8:45 AM:

    Geez, Herman, where, oh where is Arlen Spector when you need him?

  • DAY on October 31, 2011 8:51 AM:

    Once more, The Penis rears its ugly head.

  • berttheclock on October 31, 2011 8:51 AM:

    Loved the way the National Review shill tried to cover for both Cain and Perry, this morning on "Morning Joe". If not drunk, Perry, definitely, was only moments from his dealer.

  • DaveinAustin on October 31, 2011 8:52 AM:

    @jj, That is known as the "Passion of the Perry". Probably the Vicodin he takes for his bad back.

  • Rathskeller on October 31, 2011 8:55 AM:

    As many others have pointed out, this is what happens when you cross the money side of the GOP. Cain was getting too popular, even though he is visibly a flawed candidate who could not win the general election.

  • Josef K on October 31, 2011 9:05 AM:

    Wonder if the details of this payoff 'agreement' (ie. Gag Order) will be released in coming days. I wouldn't put it past the Republican establishment to try to ensure Cain sinks.

    I say "try" because I think the base is simply too rabid to care anymore.

  • Ron Byers on October 31, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Back to back posts on this story? Really?

    Must be a slow newsday.

    Herman Cain isn't going to win the nomination. Period. Full Stop.

    He never was. Leave the women he harrassed alone.

    Write about something relevant.

  • Unstable Isotope on October 31, 2011 9:49 AM:

    I wonder how far this will go since the women involved are under a no-talk settlement. This might go away without more details of what Cain actually did, as long as Cain's team is good with the crisis management. So far, they don't seem to be very good.

    I still wonder whether this will hurt him. If there's one thing Republicans love, it's playing victim of the "liberal" media. However, there are probably quite a few worried about chances in the general and Cain's chances went way down.

  • FGS on October 31, 2011 1:09 PM:

    In GOP America, racism is a huge problem: white people are constantly and unfairly called racist. Sexism is another huge problem: men are constantly and unfairly accused of harassment. The actual views of women and racial minorities have no place at the GOP table.