In the latest instalment in the Herman Cain scandal, the New York Times has alleged that the one of the women who accused the Republican presidential hopeful of sexual harrassment in the 1990s received $35,000 (£22,000) severance pay — one year’s salary — over the incident.
The paper cites “three people with direct knowledge of the payment”, and says that “new descriptions from the woman’s friends and colleagues of her level of discomfort at work” challenge Cain’s claim that he is the victim of a “witchhunt”. The Republican hopeful’s spokesman declined to comment on the severance pay allegation.
Indeed, the scale of the payment will be difficult to justify, if proved true. As I reported earlier this week, Cain has denied all knowledge of any pay-out, telling Fox News:
If the Restaurant Association did a settlement, I wasn’t even aware of it and I hope it wasn’t for much.
Adding to the pressure on Cain, a lawyer for the second woman has requested that the National Restaurant Association, where all three parties were employed, lift the non-disclosure agreement so that she can publicly dispute Cain’s version of events.
In an attempt to focus on the positives, Cain’s team have been trumpeting the support he has received from high profile conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, and fundraising successes.
However, Cain’s inability to deny that a settlement had been made more or less guaranteed that this story would rumble on, and it is difficult to see how he will recover from it. Asked by conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer if his race was one of the reasons for this negative coverage, he said: “I believe the answer is yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it.” Such attempts to detract attention and shift the blame compound Cain’s initial tactical errors — such as inconsistency about the nature of the “agreement” reached and vagueness about whether a payment had been made. It is time for him to change his tactics, and fast.