Politico sent the following news alert at 11:36 a.m. EDT:
Herman Cain said he was "falsely accused" of sexual harassment while he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association but said he had no knowledge of any settlements paid to his accusers during a Fox News interview Monday morning.The Politico report and how it was put together was evaluated late last night on this blog. Before Mr. Cain's strong denial, the Washington Post examined how the allegations could affect his presidential campaign.
"It is totally baseless and totally false," Cain said. "Never have I ever committed any kind of sexual harassment."
He added: "If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it and I hope it wasn't for much. If there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers at the restaurant association."
The question for Cain now is not whether this story hurts him (it does), but how badly he is damaged by it and whether his presidential campaign, which was already showing signs of losing the rocket-like momentum he had built over the past month, can sustain.
“The story has been floating around for a long time, but [I] don’t know any of the details,” said Sal Russo, a California-based Republican consultant with close ties to the tea party movement. “I have heard it both ways about whether it was anything egregious. So (we) have to wait and see.”
While the first reaction from the Cain campaign isn’t a bad strategic move — try to turn the story into the latest episode of the mainstream media having it out for a conservative — the detailed nature of the Politico article will make it tough for him to simply stand by that first statement.
At some point — and that point is likely very soon — Cain is going to have to issue a public accounting that makes clear to reasonable people that these allegations were spurious and without merit. In the absence of such proof, rhetoric alone is very unlikely to save him from a flurry of questions asking for more information about the allegation. And the fewer answers he has, the more questions will get asked.For now, Mr. Cain has offered that firm defense. However, I doubt we've read/heard/seen the last of the story. Inevitably another news organization will attempt to uncover more details of the allegations or seek to identify other women who claim to have been harassed by Mr. Cain.
Of bigger concern to other people will be how Mr. Cain's presidential bid is coming together. The New York Times reported late last week that various former campaign members indicate that disarray is a chronic problem. Mind you, these are former campaign members; as such, they could be speaking truthfully or embellishing to further any number of agendas.
Of equal importance is a story from the Washington Post, which suggests he is unpopular among female voters.
In four early primary states, according to recent CNN polls,Romney significantly outperformed Cain with female Republicans in every contest save South Carolina. In Iowa, where the two contenders are statistically tied, Romney took 28 percent of female voters and Cain got 17.These issues are, in my opinion, more important than a near 20-year-old sexual harassment case, unless the sexual harassment identified by Politico is the top of a larger character iceberg that has yet to be uncovered.