Herman Cain, one of the frontrunners in the Republican primary race, has denied that allegations of sexual harrassment are true. The Politicos website broke the story that Cain was accused of inappropriate behaviour in the 1990s by two female staff members at the National Restaurant Association, where he held a senior post.
In the first stage of a damage limitation exercise, Cain appeared on Fox News (see above), to say that the allegations are "trumped-up". He said:
It is totally baseless and totally false. Never have I ever committed any kind of sexual harassment.
However, he was evasive on the crucial question of whether or not the two women received a pay off. Politicos claims that they were paid in return for signing a document agreeing to keep quiet. Cain said only:
If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it and I hope it wasn't for much. If there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers at the restaurant association.
He also said it was possible that more sexual harrassment allegations could be forthcoming, but that these would also be "trumped-up".
Cain, the founder and CEO of the Godfather's Pizza chain, has recently surprised onlookers by moving to the front of the Republican race, propelled ahead in the polls by his right-wing populism and outsider status. However, these allegations could do some serious damage -- and his failure to answer the question of the pay-out means that this story is set to run and run.
UPDATE: 1st November 10am
In a rather bizarre twist, Cain broke into song at a lunchtime appearance at the National Press Club yesterday. After telling the room full of approx 300 reporters that he had never sexually harassed anyone, he ended the press conference by singing a verse of "He Looked Beyond My Faults".