After denying earlier in the day that he knew of any paid settlements to women claiming harassment at the National Restaurant Association, Herman Cain acknowledged to FOX New's Greta van Susteren that he remembered a payment made to one woman when he was CEO, according to the Washington Examiner's Byron York.
York provides the details, including Cain's recollection of what caused the sexual harassment accusation:
"She was in my office one day, and I made a gesture saying -- and I was standing close to her -- and I made a gesture saying you are the same height as my wife. And I brought my hand up to my chin saying, 'My wife comes up to my chin.'" At that point, Cain gestured with his flattened palm near his chin. "And that was put in there [the complaint] as something that made her uncomfortable," Cain said, "something that was in the sexual harassment charge."The complaint involves more than one charge, according to Politico, but Cain did not remember any other incidents.
Expect the reporting on this to continue to unfold.
From 3:00 PM:
Herman Cain is forcefully denying a Politico report that two women said he harassed them when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Now he might have a potential campaign financing issue to confront, too.
From the original Politico report on the harassment allegations:
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.At an appearance before the National Press Club this afternoon, Cain called the accusations "a witch hunt" and said that he was unaware of any payments to accusers. Politico reports that those payments were in the five-figure range for each of the accusers - and adds these details about the allegations, from "a half-dozen sources":
The sources — including 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.Cain, who initially told FOX News late this morning that the allegations were false - and that an investigation found them to be baseless.
"I have never sexually harassed anyone, and yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association. I say falsely because it turned out, after the investigation, to be baseless."Also today, Cain told CBS News that he knew nothing about his campaign skirting campaign finance laws, as reported in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. That report said two of Cain's top officials started a Wisconsin charity that helped pay $40,000 of expenses to get the Cain campaign off the ground.
All of which had Cain ... singing? Yep.
Our take, from this morning (it hasn't changed):
This story certainly has some playing out to do as other news organizations do their own reporting on it, and Cain will appear on FOX today to presumably rebut the allegations again. Cain's credibility is hurt by his initial non-denial, and his candidacy, which rose quickly to fill the Not-Mitt-Romney vacuum left by Rick Perry's poor debate performances, is fragile for a frontrunner. It won't take much to deflate Cain's rise.
Also, part of Cain's appeal has been his different-ness. He is blunt and quirky, and in a political era where we sometimes judge our candidates for persona as much as politics, that maverick sense has helped him shoot to the top of the polls. If true, these allegations steal most of that away. He'll be, simply, a bad boss who engaged in ugly behavior.
Also from earlier:
The Poynter Institute breaks down the factors that will determine whether the Cain allegations become a full-fledged scandal.
The Washington Post draws a parallel to the sexual harassment allegations surround Clarence Thomas before his confirmation hearing in 1991 and wonders if Cain will use a similar defense - that the allegations amount to what Thomas called a "high tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves."
Politico also asks political experts how this will impact Cain's campaign.
The Washington Post's Fix speculates that while Cain might combat the allegations with a detailed account of what happened, the story could go in directions Cain can't control.
MSNBC has video of Cain's chief of staff Mark Block denying the allegations with a somewhat wishful "Period. End of Story."
And a bad sign for Cain: Right-leaning Concerned Women for America wants an explanation.