Herman Cain’s campaign faced more uncomfortable questions about the businessman’s past with women as a third woman who had worked for the National Restaurant Association claimed to have been harassed. As Karen Tumulty and Krissah Thompson reported:
Former restaurant executive Herman Cain faced a new set of sexual harassment allegations Wednesday, with a report that a third former employee had described unwanted, sexually aggressive behavior from him and a Republican pollster saying he had witnessed at least two such incidents.
Cain continued to deny the charges. Speaking to the Northern Virginia Technology Council, he ascribed the reports to “factions that are trying to destroy me personally as well as destroy this campaign.” And he indicated he believes that the rival campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry is fueling them — an accusation that a Perry spokesman denied.
Just about the only thing that was becoming clearer as the controversy headed into its fourth day was that it is not going to go away anytime soon.
The third accuser is an unidentified woman who told the Associated Press that she had considered filing a workplace complaint against Cain for what the news service described as “sexually suggestive remarks or gestures” when she was working at the National Restaurant Association and he was the head of the group.
The alleged misbehavior occurred about the same time that two co-workers settled separate harassment complaints against Cain, each reportedly for five figures.
Meanwhile, pollster Chris Wilson — who said he polled for the National Restaurant Association during Cain’s tenure, and whose firm has more recently done work for an outside super PAC supporting Perry — told Oklahoma radio station KTOK that he had witnessed harassment by Cain toward a very low-level staffer who was maybe two years out of college.
“I was around a couple of times when this happened, and anyone who was involved with the NRA at the time knew that this was going to come up,” Wilson told interviewer Reid Mullins.
The restaurant association has not commented on the specifics of the allegations, citing confidentiality agreements that it had signed with the two original accusers.
As Dana Milbank wrote, Herman Cain has gone from the rising star of the GOP presidential primary to embattled candidate in a few short days:
The Hermanator is now the hunted.
Herman Cain, the long-shot Republican presidential candidate turned frontrunner, has done just about everything wrong since news broke Sunday night that his former employer had paid two women to settle sexual harassment complaints against him.
Cain denied it. He said the women didn’t understand his humor. He said his accusers fabricated the charges. He said he couldn’t remember the details, then suddenly he could. He said he had no knowledge of the settlement, then suddenly recalled some details, which turned out to be vastly understated. He publicly predicted more allegations would surface. He blamed his opponents, he howled about racism, and he accused the media and the entire city of Washington of trying to do him in.
On Wednesday morning, he raised the paranoia dial another notch. “There are factions trying to destroy me personally, and this campaign,” he announced, revealing this conspiracy to a group of technology executives at the Ritz-Carlton in Tyson’s Corner.
At his next stop, a Hilton hotel in Alexandria, the amiable candidate finally blew his stack – and the scene quickly escalated into violence. It began when a reporter asked Cain if he would release his accusers from their confidentiality agreements.
““Don’t even bother asking me all of these other questions that y’all are curious about,” Cain snapped. “Okay? Don’t even bother.”
Many analysts are pointing to the reaction from the Cain campaign in responding to this story as another example of his inconsistency as a candidate. As Dan Balz explained:
Given advance notice of 10 days by Politico, which first reported the charges, Cain and his campaign inexplicably had no immediate response. For the next 24 hours, as he staunchly denied the main allegations, Cain dribbled out more and more details of what he claimed to remember, sometimes directly contradicting what he had said only hours before. The more he’s said, the worse he’s made it for himself.
Cain’s verbal dexterity — and upbeat personality — have been the keys to his rise in the Republican nomination battle. His willingness to stand his ground in debates and his pro-business message have resonated far more widely than anyone expected when he first joined the race.
He prides himself on being an unconventional candidate. But at critical moments he has lacked the sure-footedness expected of a successful candidate. Unless he can repair that problem, his candidacy likely will face even stiffer headwinds.
The problem isn’t just related to the crisis of the moment. The same holds for his handling of substantive issues. Cain’s upbeat personality has moved him to the front of the Republican field, but he remains a work in progress as a prospective president. Repeatedly he has fallen back on the claim that because he doesn’t have all the information that a president has, he cannot say what he would do about certain problems.
His signature issue is his 9-9-9 tax plan, which has found a receptive audience among potential Republican voters. But he has struggled to fend off criticism that the plan would add a 9 percent sales tax on top of sales taxes people already are paying and that the overall proposal would produce far less revenue than he claims.
His response has been to criticize the critics for not understanding his plan. On the revenue estimates, it is Cain’s word, or campaign analysis, versus a series of others that disagree. On the impact of a national sales tax, it is Cain’s contention that there would be a general deflation in the cost of goods because hidden taxes would disappear in favor of his tax.
He has stumbled on foreign policy, either out of lack of knowledge or lack of clarity in his views. The latest examples came this week in the midst of the sexual harassment crisis. On Tuesday night, he was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News and ended up in a verbal joust with the host over his foreign policy views.
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