Cain said he did not “agree with the way he handled it for the following reason.”
“Um, nope that’s a different one,” he then said, waving away his thought.
Cain fidgeted in his chair, searched the ceiling again and adjusted his suit jacket before allowing, “I gotta go back, see, got all this stuff twirling around in my head.”
His answer, which was videotaped and went viral online and on cable TV almost immediately, was reminiscent of the painfully long 53 seconds that Texas Gov. Rick Perry spent at a candidates debate last week trying to remember the name of a federal agency he would eliminate if elected. Perry, unable to pull the Energy Department from his mind, gave up with an “oops.”
The episode comes at an especially inopportune time for Cain, who has been trying to regain momentum after allegations of sexual harassment. The former Godfather’s Pizza executive faced more problems on that front Monday, when a former boyfriend of Sharon Bialek, who alleges Cain groped her in a car, held a news conference to say he saw the two together. The candidate has said he never met Bialek and had never heard her name before she stepped forward.
Bialek worked for the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s when Cain was its president.
Victor Zuckerman, a pediatrician who lives near Shreveport, La., said that in 1997, Cain invited him and Bialek to a private reception in a Chicago hotel suite after a day of restaurant industry meetings and that Bialek later told him that Cain had sexually harassed her while on a trip to Washington.
“I can confirm that when she returned she was upset. She said that something had happened and that Mr. Cain had touched her in an inappropriate manner,” Zuckerman said, standing with Gloria Allred, Bialek’s attorney. “She said she handled it and didn’t want to talk about it any further.”
The stumbles by Perry and Cain have solidified Mitt Romney’s position as the candidate to beat and have provided an opening for someone new to challenge him. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) is the latest person to step into that role, rising to top-tier status in polls after a string of strong debate performances.
In his interview with the Journal Sentinel, Cain never fully answered the question about Libya. He said Obama should have done a better job evaluating the rebels’ motivations and the likely outcomes of U.S. involvement, but he was uncertain about what Obama had done.