- (Photo: REUTERS / Jason Reed)
WASHINGTON – GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain acknowledged that two women did file sexual harassment complaints against him while he was a member of the National Restaurant Association. However, he maintained that he was falsely accused.
During a speaking appearance at Washington, D.C.’s National Press Club, Cain told the audience, “In all of my over 40 years of business experience, running businesses and corporations, I have never sexually harassed anyone.”
The news of the sexual harassment claims broke over the weekend when Politico ran a news report alleging that “at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group.”
Cain resisted discussing the claims when asked about them Sunday by Politico reporter Jonathan Martin, telling him twice, “I’m not going to comment.” The third time Martin addressed the subject, Cain redirected the question asking, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”
On Monday, Cain’s campaign aides came out on morning talk shows denouncing the news story.
FOX News’ Geraldo Rivera aired a statement from Communications Vice President J. D. Gordon: “Political trade press are now casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts.”
Cain’s chief of staff, Mark Block, responded on MSNBC show The Daily Rundown, “Herman Cain has never sexually harassed anyone period, end of story.” Additionally he criticized the publication for citing unnamed sources.
Cain himself refused to address the story during his Monday morning appearance at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
During the question-and-answer portion of his Press Club speech, Cain finally addressed the reports, stating that the complaints were in fact filed, an investigation was launched and the accusations were found to be false.
“While at the restaurant association, I was accused of sexual harassment. Falsely accused, I might add. I was falsely accused of sexual harassment, and when the charges were brought, as the leader of the organization, I recused myself and allowed my general counsel and my human resource officer to deal with the situation. And, it was concluded after a thorough investigation that it had no basis,” he shared.
MSNBC revealed this morning that its own sources had revealed information about a cash settlement.
Cain addressed that information, stating, “I am unaware of any sort of settlement. I hope it wasn’t for much because I didn’t do anything.”
When asked who he thought had leaked the allegations to the press, Cain said he did not know who had launched this “witch hunt,” but said he would not chase down allegations from anonymous sources.
He referred reporters to the National Restaurant Association to find out more about the allegations and a settlement.
Sue Hensley, senior vice president of public affairs communications for the National Restaurant Association, released a statement this morning, stating, “The incidents in question relate to personnel matters that allegedly took place nearly fifteen years ago. Consistent with our longstanding policy, we don’t comment on personnel issues relating to current or former employees.”
Cain served as the National Restaurant Association's CEO in the mid-1990s. Cain is married to wife Gloria and has two children.