A few months ago, Herman Cain told the conservative media his wife Gloria would not be the typical campaign wife, out on the trail supporting her man. Well Gloria, something tells me you’re going to be getting media calls soon.
Politico put four reporters on their latest top of the fold scoop. Four. And the scoop will sound familiar, if you suffered through the whole Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings nightmare. The bottom line:
During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.
The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.
Cain headed the restaurant association from 1996 to 1999. A bit more:
Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told POLITICO the candidate indicated to campaign officials that he was “vaguely familiar” with the charges and that the restaurant association’s general counsel had resolved the matter.
The latest statement came from Cain himself. In a tense sidewalk encounter Sunday morning outside the Washington bureau of CBS News — where the Republican contender had just completed an interview on “Face the Nation” — Cain evaded a series of questions about sexual harassment allegations.
Cain said he has “had thousands of people working for me” at different businesses over the years and could not comment “until I see some facts or some concrete evidence.” His campaign staff was given the name of one woman who complained last week, and it was repeated to Cain on Sunday. He responded, “I am not going to comment on that.”
He was then asked, “Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life of harassment by a woman?”
He breathed audibly, glared at the reporter and stayed silent for several seconds. After the question was repeated three times, he responded by asking the reporter, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”
Cain was president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association from late 1996 to mid-1999. POLITICO learned of the allegations against him, and over the course of several weeks, has put together accounts of what happened by talking to a lengthy roster of former board members, current and past staff and others familiar with the workings of the trade group at the time Cain was there.
In one case, POLITICO has seen documentation describing the allegations and showing that the restaurant association formally resolved the matter. Both women received separation packages that were in the five-figure range.
On the details of Cain’s allegedly inappropriate behavior with the two women, POLITICO has a half-dozen sources shedding light on different aspects of the complaints.
The sources — which include the recollections of close associates and other documentation — describe episodes that left the women upset and offended. These incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.
Peter Kilgore, who was the association’s general counsel in the 1990s, and remains in that position today, has declined to comment to POLITICO on whether any settlements existed, saying he cannot discuss personnel matters.
But one source closely familiar with Cain’s tenure in Washington confirmed that the claims related to allegations of sexual harassment – behavior that disturbed members of the board who became aware of it, as well as the source, who otherwise liked Cain.
Politico reports that Cain warned at least some campaign aides that he could face allegations of a sexual harassment nature. And that, as they say, ain’t good. He was already facing tougher scrutiny of his 999 tax plan, and the fact that his campaign appears to be more of a book tour than an organized run for the White House, with like, staff and offices and stuff. But this could be potentially devastating, in that it recalls the unpleasantness of the Anita Hill testimony about Clarence “high tech lynching for uppity blacks” Thomas. And how will it change the equation if the women in question turn out to be white? All of these are interesting questions, and potentially very damaging to Herman Cain.
Expect the media to press him, and his wife, to respond. And watch as the right lines up for and against — with some on the right surely accusing Politico of left wing “jounnolist” tactics (which is funny, since Politico is an adjunct of the Reagan Foundation.)
And another question I have: where did this scoop come from? Did the Politico reporters discover it just randomly digging around in Cain’s files form his National Restaurant Association days? Or was it tipped to them, by someone who wants Cain out of the way? Which leads to more questions: out of the way of “who?” Could this be a Karl Rovian-type attempt to sideline Cain to help Mitt Romney, who Cain is beating right now in both national polls and in Iowa, where, like in most of the country, Romney has OK numbers but no love — or something from the world that wants Rick Perry to be the anti-Romney candidate? Lots of juicy stuff here. Let’s see where this goes.
Read the whole Politico scoop here
UPDATE: The Ron Paul camp is the first to respond, but they hold their fire, with a spokesman telling Politico:
Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton criticized Cain in an email for being soft on the Fed and supporting the 2008 bank bailouts — but didn’t comment directly on the allegations against Cain.
“We plan to beat Herman Cain on the issues, like his support for TARP and his cozy relationship with the Federal Reserve, not by assaulting his character,” Benton told POLITICO.
Of course, that’s the smart way to go. The only candidate I could see not being able to resist this kind of culture bait is Rick Santorum. Maybe Michele Bachmann. Let’s see if their staffs hold them back.
UPDATE 2: The HotAirians are on it, and so far, not much sympathy for “Herb” in the comments section.
UPDATE 3: A very good source tells me the Cain story came from Perry-world, possibly via oppo research people sympathetic to, but not technicallyt inside, the Perry campaign, and my source tells me the same team is in Massachusetts digging for Romney dirt. Stay tuned…
Meanwhile, Nia Malikka Henderson updates the story at the WaPo, with a Cain camp push-back.
UPDATE 4: Mustache on mustache crime is way before it’s time, Geraldo…