US presidential candidate Herman Cain quietly settled two charges of sexual harassment while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, beltway reporters at Politico maintain.
The “incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices,” the paper wrote in its exclusive report on Sunday. “There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.”
The two women, who worked at the National Restaurant Association with Cain, “left the women upset and offended,” the paper reports. In both incidents, the Association paid out five-figure settlement packages to the women, in exchange for their agreement that the matter would not be made public.
One woman was identified as an Associatin board member who suffered “an unwanted sexual advance” from Cain at a hotel where an event involving the group was taking place.
Politico claims to have seen documented evidence of the incidents and their settlement, and spoken to people who wished to remain anonymous but confirmed the harassment occurred.
When confronted by a Politico reporter about the charges on Sunday, Cain took a bizarre defense. First, the Republican coldly stared at the reporter for several moments as he was asked, “Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life of harassment by a woman?” three times. Cain finally responded by growling, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”.
Sunday’s report may explain the sudden departure of Cain campaign communications director Ellen Carmichael at the beginning of October. At the time, Carmichael gave no reason for leaving other than an “earnestness to leave rather than a reflection of the campaign.” Two other staffers left the rising star candidacy in June, also for unspecified reasons.
Cain’s current communications director, J.D. Gordon, later accused Politico of “unsubstantiated personal attacks” in a press release, reports The Daily Caller.
“Fearing the message of Herman Cain who is shaking up the political landscape in Washington, Inside the Beltway media have begun to launch unsubstantiated personal attacks on Cain,” the release said.
Gordon then blamed “liberals” for attacking the leading Republican contender and current mainstream conservative favorite.
“Sadly, we’ve seen this movie played out before — a prominent Conservative targeted by liberals simply because they disagree with his politics,” Gordon said. “Mr. Cain — and all Americans, deserve better.”
Gordon then called into FOX News reporter Geraldo Rivera’s live television show Sunday night to dismiss the story, but only made matters worse when he refused to directly answer the validity of the report.
“What you’re saying, what you’re doing right now is a recipe for disaster, mate,” Rivera told Gordon live on the air. “I’m telling you, the morning papers aren’t past their deadline yet.” He asked Gordon point blank if he was denying the accounts. Gordon refused, instead casting aspersions on the Politico story.
“The story doesn’t hold any weight,” Gordon protested. “It has plenty of weight,” Rivera said. “Trust me, I’ve been in this arena for a long time…J.D., you’ve got to give us more substance, mate.”
On Monday, Penny Nance, president of the right-leaning women’s rights group, Concerned Women for America, called on Cain to answer the questions posed by Sunday’s report.
“Early in my career I resigned from a trade association for the exact same reason and with no financial settlement. I simply found another job,” Nance told Politico. “Therefore, I know in a very personal way that sexual harassment exists and that it’s demeaning and painful. It should never be tolerated in the workforce and certainly not the White House.”
Nance went on to say that the report was not “consistent with my experience with Herman Cain.”
UPDATE: Herman Cain Chief of Staff Mark Block, appearing on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” on Monday morning, has said the Politico story is “questionable at best” and his boss never sexually harassed any female co-worker.
“Let me tell you that Herman Cain has never sexually harassed anybody, period. End of story,” Block said. “The only people who spoke publicly about the story in that article are the ones that were in the best position to know.
“They were the Chair, Vice Chair and immediate past chair of the National Restaurant Association during Herman Cain’s tenure. Yet all three — and all three said that he was a man of total integrity. Every negative word and accusation in the article is sourced to a series of unnamed or anonymous sources, and this is questionable at best. I am not personally aware of any cash settlement relating to sexual harassment charges to Mr. Cain.”