Herman Cain Denies Sexual Harassment Allegations
Presidential candidate and businessman Herman Cain on Monday confirmed reports that he had been accused of sexually harassing two female co-workers while he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, but called the harassment accusations "totally false."
"In my 40 years as a businessman... I have never sexually harassed anyone," Cain said at the National Press Club Monday.
He said he was falsely accused by the co-workers and the restaurant association had conducted a thorough investigation that uncovered no wrongdoing.
A report from Politico on Sunday said two female coworkers complained about inappropriate behavior from Cain and left their jobs after receiving payouts from the trade group to keep quiet about the allegations.
"In a series of comments over the past 10 days, Cain and his campaign repeatedly declined to respond directly about whether he ever faced allegations of sexual harassment at the restaurant association," Politico reported.
The Politico report, written by four reporters, did not name its sources, who accused the presidential candidate of "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."
At Monday's press conference, Cain added that he did not know about any settlement in which his accusers might have received payouts to not speak about the incident. "I am unaware of a settlement that came out of that accusation," he said. He said that his campaign would not look into the matter.
NBC News has confirmed that one of Cain's accusers received a cash settlement.
Cain referred to the media flurry over the accusations as a "witch hunt."
"As result of today's big news story, I really know what it's like to be number one," Cain joked, referencing the media scrutiny that has arisen since his rise as one of the Republican frontrunners for the 2012 nomination.
Herman Cain's poll numbers have been rising, and he shares the lead with Mitt Romney in the race according to some polls. His 9-9-9 tax plan --which would put in place a 9 percent business tax, a 9 percent personal income tax and a 9 percent national sales tax -- has been the cornerstone of his campaign.
Reporters asked Cain about the controversy early morning at an American Enterprise Institute event on taxes Monday morning, but the candidate did not respond.
Cain then denied the accusations on Fox News before the press conference, saying he was "falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association. "Never have I ever committed any kind of sexual harassment," he said.
Reach Ryan Faughnder here.