Herman Cain said Thursday that he was helping Ginger White with her “month-to-month bills and expenses” and that his wife did not know about the payments or the friendship with the woman, who has alleged that the two had an extramarital affair.
In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Cain — a Republican presidential hopeful — repeated his assertion that his relationship with White was platonic, despite the Atlanta businesswoman’s claim this week that she had a 13-year affair with him.
Cain said White reached out to him this fall, sending him about 70 text messages from Oct. 22 through Nov. 18 asking for financial assistance.
“She was out of work and had trouble paying her bills and I had known her as a friend,” Cain told the newspaper. “She wasn’t the only friend who I had helped in these tough economic times, and so her messages to me were relating to ‘need money for rent’ or whatever the case may be. I don’t remember all the specifics.”
In an interview Thursday with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, White said she is “deeply sorry” for any pain she might have caused Cain’s wife, Gloria, or her family.
“My heart bleeds for this woman because I am a woman and being in a situation like this cannot be fun. And I am deeply, deeply sorry if I have caused any hurt to her and to his kids, to his family,” said White, a mother of two. “I never wanted to hurt anyone and I’m deeply sorry.”
Cain told reporters Wednesday that he has not spoken with his wife in person about the allegations of infidelity but that he plans to discuss them with her Friday. He said that the matter is taking a toll on his family, and that he is “reassessing” whether to remain in the presidential contest. He told the Union Leader that he will decide by next week.
Supporters and campaign workers on Thursday said they are moving forward despite the questions about Cain’s political future. They acknowledged that his reevaluation of his candidacy had put a chill on fundraising and volunteer recruitment efforts but they expressed hope that he will stay in the race.
“Clearly it has slowed down our momentum,” said Steve Grubbs, Cain’s Iowa campaign chairman. “But it has not stopped our forward progress.”
The campaign cannot afford to air ads to respond to the allegations, said a person familiar with the operation. Still, supporters think Cain can bounce back if he recommits himself to the race.
“The family so far wants him to stay” in the race, a source close to the campaign said Thursday, before the Union Leader interview. “They’re all” angry, the source said, but “not at him.”
Cain, who was soaring in opinion polls earlier in the fall, lost momentum after allegations a month ago that he had sexually harassed four women while head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Cain has denied the accusations, as well as the story from White, a 46-year-old mother of two who told Fox 5 News in Atlanta that she met Cain in Louisville. She said they began a “casual” affair and she produced records showing dozens of phone calls and text messages to and from Cain’s cellphone.
In the Union Leader interview, Cain acknowledged that he met White at a conference in Louisville years ago. He said he had merely been helping friend when he provided her with financial assistance. He did not disclose how much money he gave White, on the advice of his attorney. He said his recent correspondence with White revolved around her requests for money.
He said White told him “that quite frankly, I was the only person who was a friend at the time — and I underscore ‘friend’ — that was in a position to help her.”
Cain has been known to help friends and relatives financially, said Maurice Atkinson, a friend and founder of DraftCain.org. He said he knows of a family member of Cain’s whom the candidate is assisting with house and car payments.
Cain said his wife did not know about his relationship with or payments to White until they became public this week.
“My wife now knows,” Cain said. “My wife and I have talked about it and I have explained it to her. My wife understands that I’m a softhearted, giving person.”
Staff writers Karen Tumulty and Peter Wallsten contributed to this report.