Herman Cain denies sexual harassment claims

Herman Cain gets saucy at the Republican debate.
ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

Did Herman Cain bother his female employees with cheesy pickup lines?

The businessman-turned-GOP-frontrunner got his first scandal this weekend, as reports surfaced that Cain was faced with accusations of sexual harassment from two employees during his time as head of the National Restaurant Association in the ’90s.

From Politico, which first broke the story:

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.

In a series of comments over the past 10 days, Cain and his campaign repeatedly declined to respond directly about whether he ever faced allegations of sexual harassment at the restaurant association. They have also declined to address questions about specific reporting confirming that there were financial settlements in two cases in which women leveled complaints.

However, sources from inside the Cain kitchen are disputing the account. In a statement, Cain campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon denied the allegations, calling the accusations “thinly sourced allegations stemming from Mr. Cain’s tenure as the Chief Executive Officer at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s,” and arguing that the “political trade press [was] casting aspersions on [Cain's] character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts.”

Politico says that Cain refused to comment on the accusations when confronted by their reporter. When he was asked whether he had ever been accused of sexual harassment, this awkward standoff ensued:

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?”

So, at the risk of editorializing, it definitely smells like something is up. More evidence that Cain didn’t foresee ever becoming a front-runner, didn’t foresee lasting long enough that this would become an issue? Regardless, Cain is in the lead now, whether he wanted to be or not, and with the lead comes a certain amount of attention. If he doesn’t like the heat, Cain should get out of the oven.


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