An exclusive POLITICO report published Sunday night alleges that at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about multiple instances of inappropriate behavior exhibited by Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain during his tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Cain’s campaign has since denied allegations.
Sources told POLITICO that the women complained that Cain had exhibited sexually suggestive behavior towards them, and that they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts in the five-figure range to leave the association. The payouts were reportedly made on the agreement that the women would not speak about their departures.
A Cain spokesman told POLITICO that the candidate indicated to campaign officials that he was “vaguely familiar” with the charges and that the restaurant association’s general counsel had resolved the matter.
POLITICO approached Cain in person on the sidewalk Sunday morning while the candidate was leaving the Washington bureau of CBS news following an interview on “Face the Nation.” POLITICO writes of the tense confrontation that progressed:
“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?’”
POLITICO claims to have known about the allegations against Cain for weeks, and has put together accounts of what happened by “talking to a lengthy roster of former board members, current and past staff and others familiar with the workings of the trade group at the time Cain was there.”
After questions from POLITICO regarding the allegations, Cain campaign vice president for communications emailed the publication on October 24, writing that any dispute about Cain’s conduct at the restaurant association “was settled amicably among all parties many years ago.”
Cain was president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association from late 1996 to mid-1999. Several board members of the National Restaurant Association mentioned in POLITICO’s story told the publication that they had never heard about any complaints regarding Cain making unwanted advances, and said that such behavior would be out of character based off of their experiences with the executive.
In a statement to The Associated Press Sunday night, Cain’s campaign said that the POLITICO report isn’t true and represents unfair attacks.
Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon said the political press was “dredging up thinly sourced allegations” from Cain’s tenure leading the trade group in the 1990s. Gordon said the report includes “unsubstantiated personal attacks” and said the press is “casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts.”