Cain Says He was ‘Falsely Accused’ of Harassment

October 31, 2011

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain admitted Monday to being accused of sexual harassment while at the helm of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, but denied ever engaging in such activity.

Cain decried a story that said the association had reached settlements with two women who lodged sexual harassment claims against him as part of a “witch hunt” associated with his recent surge in the polls.

“I have never sexually harassed anyone, and yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association,” Cain said in an interview on Fox News, his first comments on the Politico story from Sunday. “I say falsely because it turned out, after the investigation, to be baseless.”

Cain sought to forcefully dispute the story, which said Cain had been accused of sexually suggestive behavior toward at least two female employees during his time as head of the restaurant lobby.

The report said the women signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them five-figure financial payouts to leave the association and barred them from discussing their departures. Neither woman was identified.

Cain said he had never personally settled any sexual harassment suit, and that if the NRA had settled any claims, it had done so without his knowledge.

“If the Restaurant Association did a settlement, I wasn’t even aware of it, and I hope it wasn’t for much because nothing happened,” he explained on Fox. “So if there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers that worked for me at the association.”

Cain said, though, during an afternoon speech that he wouldn’t ask the association to release further information, and that his campaign viewed the issue as closed.

“As far as we’re concerned, enough’s said about this issue,” Cain said.

Cain’s campaign has launched an all-out effort Monday to dispute the story. Campaign manager and chief of staff Mark Block forcefully denied the Politico story on television this morning.