But his acknowledgment came at the end of a rare day of campaigning in Washington in which he offered several conflicting accounts of the allegations in a Politico report, even as he emphatically denied that he had ever sexually harassed anyone in his life.
Cain began the day muttering only a quiet “good morning” to a swarm of reporters before an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute, where he kept his message focused on his signature “9-9-9” tax plan.
After a luncheon policy speech at the National Press Club, Cain wiped the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief and said that he “would be delighted to clear the air.” In response to a question, he confirmed that there had been an allegation of sexual harassment but said he was “unaware of any settlement.”
Then Cain ended the day with two sit-down television interviews in which he described an encounter with one woman in detail, confirmed that she was paid a financial settlement and speculated about how much she received.
Asked by PBS’s Judy Woodruff whether he might have behaved inappropriately, Cain said: “In my opinion, no. But as you would imagine, it’s in the eye of the person who thinks that maybe I crossed the line.”
Cain was referring to the encounter that he said had led to a formal complaint.
“I referenced this lady’s height, and I was standing near her, and I did this saying, ‘You’re the same height of my wife,’ because my wife is five feet tall and she comes up to my chin. This lady’s five feet tall and she came up to my chin,” Cain told Woodruff.
“Obviously she thought that that was too close for comfort. It showed up in the actual allegation. But at the time when I did that, you know, it was in my office, the door was wide open, and my secretary was sitting right there, and we were standing there and I made the little gesture.”
Cain said this accusation was later determined to be “baseless” after the woman did not find anyone to corroborate her story. He said he did not know about a second accusation. “Totally have no idea,” he told Woodruff.
The allegations about Cain first surfaced Sunday night on Politico, which reported that two women accused him of inappropriate behavior. Politico did not identify the two women, and neither spoke publicly on Monday.
The Washington Post independently obtained the names of the women and tried to contact both, but several e-mails and telephone messages were not returned. A man who answered the door at the Maryland home of one of the women said they had “nothing to say.”
Several key questions remained unanswered Monday night, including the full nature of the alleged encounters, the results of any internal inquiries and the resolutions that the women reached with the National Restaurant Association. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the association said it would not comment on “personnel issues,” citing a “long-standing policy.”