Herman Cain’s campaign issued a lengthy statement Sunday night attacking – but not directly denying — POLITICO’s report that at least two women had accused the GOP presidential candidate of inappropriate behavior during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association.
And in a phone interview with Fox News, Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon repeatedly evaded questions about whether the trade group made payments to two female employees who expressed discomfort with Cain’s actions.
“All I’m telling you right now is, this is something the establishment is trying to attack Mr. Cain on,” Gordon said. Pressed by host Geraldo Rivera as to whether there had been any cash settlements, Gordon said: “You’d have to get that from the National Restaurant Association.”
Gordon told the Associated Press Sunday evening that the campaign was flat-out denying POLITICO’s story. But the campaign has not responded to the substance of the report in any detail.
Earlier Sunday, Cain repeatedly declined to answer several direct questions from POLITICO about the allegations, and the campaign’s first statement on the story did not include a denial.
“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,” Cain’s campaign said in a statement. “Dredging up thinly sourced allegations stemming from Mr. Cain’s tenure as the Chief Executive Officer at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, political trade press are now casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts.”
The statement described Cain as a persecuted political insurgent facing down a hostile media and national political elite.
“Since Washington establishment critics haven’t had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain’s ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can,” the campaign said. “Sadly, we’ve seen this movie played out before – a prominent Conservative targeted by liberals simply because they disagree with his politics. Mr. Cain — and all Americans, deserve better.”
Cain will certainly be asked to address the allegations against him more specifically in the coming days. He has two public events in Washington Monday: a 9 a.m. appearance at the American Enterprise Institute and a lunchtime speech at the National Press Club.
The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO is scheduled to spend the next several days in the nation’s capital; on Wednesday, he plans to meet with Republican members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
Cain’s opponents reacted cautiously to the news that the National Restaurant Association reached private settlements with several employees who complained of Cain’s behavior.
Of the campaigns contacted by POLITICO, the only one to respond to the allegations was that of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Paul’s campaign insisted that it would steer clear of attacks on Cain’s “character” — jabbing instead at his past support for bank bailouts and work with the Federal Reserve.
“We plan to beat Herman Cain on the issues, like his support for TARP and his cozy relationship with the Federal Reserve, not by assaulting his character,” Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton wrote in an email.
Buddy Roemer, the former Louisiana governor and long-shot 2012 candidate who has been excluded from GOP debates, took a similar swipe on Twitter: “Just a gentle reminder: Cain doesn’t want Fed audit, supported bank bailouts, didn’t see housing bubble coming, former lobbyist.”
The Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman campaigns all declined to address the story. A representative for Rick Perry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Depending on how GOP primary voters react to the new information about Cain, the revelations could touch off another shakeup in the already volatile Republican presidential race.
Recent national polls have placed Cain at the top of the Republican presidential field – in first place or tied with Romney for the lead. On Saturday, the Des Moines Register published a poll showing Cain with a 1-point edge over Romney in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa.
The Gazette now offers Facebook Comments on its stories. You must be logged into your Facebook account to add comments. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal page, uncheck the box below the comment. Comments deemed offensive by the moderators will be removed, and commenters who persist may be banned from commenting on the site.