Herman Cain who recently was a leading candidate for the Republican nomination in some national and state polls is now denying that he ever sexually harassed anyone, even as he acknowledged that two women leveled such an accusation against him more than a decade ago.
The presidential candidate assures, â€śI have never sexually harassed anyone – anyone – and, absolutely, I – these are false accusations.â€ť
The story first appeared on news website Politico.com claimed that when Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained of sexually suggestive comments and gestures by Cain at the association.
As it was written, “The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association.”
This story could damage his surprisingly strong bid to be the Republican challenger to Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
“The people have propelled my candidacy,” Cain said. “The party may resist and I’m not saying that they are. I’m not the party favorite by some members of the party. I understand that.”
“This bull’s-eye on my back has gotten bigger,” the candidate said to reporters at the National Press Club. “We have no idea the source of this witch hunt, which is really what it is. One incident that I recall as the day has gone on,” Mr. Cain explained.
“She was in my office one day, and I made a gesture saying, Oh, and I was standing close to her. And I made a gesture, You’re the same height as my wife, and brought my hand, didn’t touch her, up to my chin and said, You’re the same height of my wife because my wife comes up to my chin, my wife of 43 years.”
“The sexual harassment allegations will amount to the first in a drip, drip, drip of negative information about him,” said Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst.
Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, also commented on this point in an Internet posting, saying that â€śin the eyes of the liberal media, Herman Cain is just another uppity black American who has had the audacity to leave the liberal plantation. So they must destroy him, just as they tried destroying Clarence Thomas.â€ť
Months ago, Mr. Cain himself had noted the possibility of his being on the receiving end of accusations like those made against Justice Thomas during his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
If that accusations are true, that could be a huge plus for Mr. Perry, who is Cainâ€™s opponent in the front-runner for the nomination.
Mr. Perry has dropped behind Cain, earning only single digits in some surveys at the same time when Cainâ€™s popularity was growing. If Mr. Cain loses support in the days ahead, some of that could go to Mr. Perry.
But Mr. Romney is also eager to consolidate his support and increase his lead in the polls, and a collapse of Mr. Cainâ€™s campaign could give him an opportunity to court voters who had not previously been willing to back him for the nomination.
â€śIf the veracity of the denials â€“ which were late in coming â€“ are challenged by the emergence of new facts or actors, the issue could become political quicksand,â€ť said Mr. Musser, the former aide to Mr. Pawlenty. â€śHow the Cain campaign handles the next phase of the story will tell us a lot more about its impact. â€ť
Other Republican candidates in the race could also benefit if Mr. Cainâ€™s support starts to sag. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, has been gaining support recently after his campaign badly stumbled earlier in the summer. Mrs. Bachmann is focusing her energy on doing well in Iowa, and a diminished Cain candidacy could help.
In the end, the impact of the charges may depend on what happens next, and whether the unidentified women cited in Politicoâ€™s story decide to come forward and tell their version of what happened.
Mr. Cainâ€™s decision to talk about the allegations publicly at the National Press Club on Monday may give the women some legal cover to come forward. If that happens â€” and depending on what they say â€” the report may have more impact.
If the women donâ€™t come forward, itâ€™s possible that the political ramifications of the accusations could quickly fade into the background as the Republican primary race moves into its most intense period this winter.
â€śThe deal is sealed and so are the lips that could trip him,â€ť said Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican political strategist. â€śSo, with his forceful response, I think Cain powers on for now.â€ťÂ [Via The New York Times]