Cain Sells Vision, Denies Harassment, Sings Spiritual

GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain Oct. 31 denied a claim of staff sexual harassment that's grabbing headlines and outlined at a National Press Club lunch how he would revitalize the country with his tax plan. The former businessman and radio host, portrayed below in a club photo courtesy of Al Teich, finished his Q&A by Herman Cainsinging a deep-voiced version of a spiritual.

As part of volunteer services that club members render, I was asked to cover the event for the Wire, the club's internal publication for its more than 3,000 members. Before the speech started I asked Cain what he'd suggest as the headline for my story. "Common sense!" he responded with a smile. Below is an adaptation of the report I filed about the come-from-behind candidate who now leads in the latest polls of Republican candidates, or is tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- but now faces scandal allegations.

Club President Mark Hamrick, who works for the Associated Press in its broadcasting and online unit, began Q&A by asking Cain about a Politico report Oct. 30 that the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s paid two former staff members to settle their claims that Cain, as CEO, had sexually harassed them. The moderator of an earlier event on tax policy run by the American Enterprise Association had cut off a questioner who tried to ask about the report, with the moderator saying it would likely be addressed at the Press Club.

“I would be delighted to clear the air,” Cain responded. “I have never sexually harassed anyone and these accusations are totally false.” Cain, nearing his 66th birthday, said he didn’t know details of any settlement by the association, as alleged by Politico. “I recused myself,” Cain said, “and allowed my general counsel and my human resource officer to deal with the situation -- and it was concluded after a thorough investigation that it had no basis.” Update: Cain told Fox News in an interview later in the day that he recalled a settlement. See below.

The event began on a high note for Cain as Hamrick introduced him to a standing room crowd as “the front-runner” based on latest polls in the 2012 nomination race. Cain complimented his waiter, Andrew Price, on 44 years at the club, including serving “eight or nine” U.S. presidents. “I would be Number Nine,” Cain said. “Some things you might call a coincidence.  I call it a good sign”

Warming to his theme, Cain said, “The biggest crisis we face is a severe crisis of leadership, in my opinion, in the White House.”

“The latest projection is that the economy is supposed to grow at 1.6 percent,” he continued. “That’s anemic. We can do better.”  He told the audience, which had been served cupcakes decorated on top with the numbers 9-9-9, that his tax plan would create economic growth at up to triple the current rate by expanding business opportunities.

Cain was asked about a recent Washington Post report claiming his plan would not raise enough money for the federal government to function. To respond, Cain summoned from the head table Rich Lowrie, the campaign’s chief economic advisor.  “The plan as designed will bringing in the same amount of money as the current plan,” said Lowrie. He, like Cain, has been a leader in Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group supported by the Charles and David Koch family.

Noting a recent debating point with his Republican competitor Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Cain contrasted their plans by saying, “Politicians are interested in proposing things they think can pass. Businessmen propose things they think can fix the problem.”

Hamrick wound up by asking without advance warning that Cain “end on a high note” by singing. Cain, an associate minister at the Baptist church in Atlanta he has attended since age 10, complied by rendering “Amazing Grace” a cappella.

The entire speech is available on video courtesy of the Press Club here



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Listed here are excerpts of relevant columns:

Herman Cain Coverage Nov. 2-4

Washington Post, New Herman Cain SuperPAC ad: ‘A high-tech lynching,’ Rachel Weiner, Nov. 4, 201.  A slick, dramatic new web ad in support of Herman Cain hammers on the comparison between the allegations against him and the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The spot, from the super PAC Americans for Herman Cain, uses footage of Thomas at his confirmation hearing responding to sexual harassment allegations: “It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves. It is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured rather than hung from a tree.”  The ad also quotes various black liberals (Al Sharpton, Cornel West) criticizing Cain. At the end the words, “Don’t let liberals do it again” appear on the screen. The ad will appear on the Drudge Report Web site and go out to 25,000 Iowans via e-mail. The group is also making a million calls in Iowa, Nevada, Minnesota and Colorado (the four earliest caucus states) with the same message. Meanwhile Cain continues to rise in polls, with seven in 10 Republicans saying the allegations do not matter when it comes to picking a candidate. However, 42 percent of GOP-leaning independents see the allegations against Cain as serious.

Washington Post, Will Herman Cain survive the scandal? Karen Tumulty and Aaron Blake, Nov. 4, 2011.  There is no law of political physics that predicts what happens when the most unconventional type of presidential campaign collides with the most timeworn kind of Washington scandal.

Atlantic Wire, The Washington Post Piles on Herman Cain, but Doesn't Bring the Goods, Dashiell Bennett, Nov. 4, 2011. The front page of The Washington Post takes a couple of new shots at Herman Cain today, looking beyond his recent to scandal to suggest that the real problem with his job at the National Restaurant Association is that he wasn't very good at it. The main A1 story, under the headline, "For Cain, some troubles as trade group chief," mentions "problems" and "struggles" for the president candidate when he was the head of the NRA in the late 1990s. But digging into the actual story, it's hard to see what exactly those struggles were. There plenty of quotes from former colleagues, saying that Cain was likable and outgoing and had a talent for schmoozing with Washington power brokers — all important skills when you work in hospitality. But despite five named authors and researcher, the article has a harder time listing any actual troubles Cain had doing his job.

Washington Post, Why Herman Cain is lucky he’s Herman Cain, Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza, Nov. 4, 2011. Say what you want about how Herman Cain and his campaign have handled the response to the growing controversy consuming his campaign. It hasn’t hurt him in the Republican primary. Not yet, at least. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that seven in 10 Republicans say the controversy has no effect on whether they would vote for him, and he remains in a statistical tie atop the GOP field with Mitt Romney. Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain arrives to speak on Capitol Hill in Washington this week.  And a lot of is because, on paper, Cain is about the perfect vessel for surviving just such a pickle.

Nov. 3

Washington Post, Cain’s Clarence Thomas connection: Cain and supporters attach themselves to Clarence Thomas, to their benefit, Aaron Blake, Nov. 3, 2011. The parallels with Clarence Thomas were probably unavoidable for Herman Cain, but as the scandal regarding sexual harassment claims heads into its fifth day, they’re starting to crop up more frequently — including, now, at Cain’s own behest. Cain’s campaign has brought Thomas into the conversation by sitting down with the U.S. Supreme Court justice’s wife, Ginni , who happens to be a conservative activist and contributor for the Daily Caller. Meanwhile, a super PAC supporting Cain is now calling the controversy a “high-tech lynching” — the same words Clarence Thomas used in 1991.

Washington Post, For Cain, some troubles as trade group chief, Krissah Thompson and Sandhya Somashekhar, Nov. 3, 2011. The board members of the National Restaurant Association knew they wanted Herman Cain to run their organization in 1996. He was a hero in the restaurant world, so they offered him perks, including a luxury D.C. apartment and weekly first-class tickets from Washington to Omaha, where his wife was living. Once settled into the powerful trade association’s 17th Street NW offices, however, Cain developed a different reputation. Colleagues recall that he spent the organization’s money liberally, commissioning new information technology and phone systems and spending nearly double what had been budgeted to renovate an auditorium.

Washington Post, Herman Cain denies new harassment allegations, accuses Rick Perry of fueling stories, Karen Tumulty and Krissah Thompson, Nov. 2, 2011. Former restaurant executive Herman Cain faced a new set of sexual harassment allegations Wednesday, with a report that a third former employee had described unwanted, sexually aggressive behavior from him and a Republican pollster saying he had witnessed at least two such incidents.

Nov. 3

Washington Post, Herman Cain’s accuser wants to tell her side of story, lawyer says, Sandhya Somashekhar and James V. Grimaldi, Nov. 3, 2011. A woman who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment in the 1990s is ready for her story to come out, her attorney said Tuesday, even as the Republican presidential hopeful spent a second day trying to quell the mounting controversy and explain his conflicting recollections of the matter.

Washington Post, Cain camp considering legal action against Politico, Nia-Malika Henderson, Nov. 3, 2011. A Herman Cain aide said Thursday that the Cain campaign is considering its legal options over the original Politico story, which revealed that the former head of the National Restaurant Association was accused of sexually harassing at least two women during his tenure in the 1990s.

Huffington Post, Herman Cain Sexual Harassment Allegations: Confidentiality Agreements Scrutinized As Cain Faces Press, Luke Johnson, Nov. 2, 2011. Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's staff called off a press conference in Alexandria, Va. Wednesday morning as he faces sexual harassment allegations. "Excuse me!" he reportedly said, quite loudly, when asked about the controversy. He later said to reporters, "Don't even bother asking me all these questions you're curious about." At least one photographer took a "hard blow to the face" as Cain personnel and hotel security pushed back against assembled photographers, according to the New York Times.  The confidentiality agreements signed by the two women who accused Herman Cain of inappropriate behavior when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s have drawn increased scrutiny.
Huffington Post, Oh, You Mean That Settlement? Herman Cain Addresses Sexual Harassment Settlement, Oct. 31, 2011. In an interview airing on Fox News on Monday night, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain says that a financial settlement was paid to one of two women who accused him of sexual harassment while he was serving as head of the National Restaurant Association over a decade ago. However, in responding to the accusations in question earlier in the day, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO said, "I have never sexually harassed anyone and those accusations are totally false ... It was concluded, after a thorough investigation, that it had no basis." He added, "I am unaware of any sort of settlement."
Associated Press / Huffington Post, Herman Cain-Clarence Thomas Comparisons Made By GOP Base Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations, Shannon McCaffrey, Nov. 1, 2011. Conservatives rallied around Herman Cain as he battles sexual harassment allegations, likening the attacks on the Republican presidential contender to what they describe as the "high-tech lynching" of another prominent black Republican: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The forceful early reaction to the Cain firestorm – fueled by racially charged rhetoric – suggests the Georgia businessman's attempt to cast himself as a victim of the media and liberals is, so far, paying dividends among his conservative Republican base, who will hold considerable sway in selecting the party's nominee. But the accusations against Cain, an untested newcomer on the political scene, may give more moderate GOP voters pause and could cause would-be donors to shy away even as Cain works to capitalize on his rising poll numbers.
Washington Post, Herman Cain denies ever sexually harassing anyone, calls allegations ‘totally false,’ Philip Rucker and Nia-Malika Henderson, Nov. 1, 2011. Herman Cain on Monday called accusations of harassment from two former employees “totally baseless and totally false,” moving aggressively to knock down allegations that could jeopardize his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.  Cain verified that one formal sexual harassment complaint had been filed by a female subordinate while he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s and that the group had paid her an undisclosed financial settlement.

Washington Post, Let Herman be gone, Eugene Robinson, Nov. 1, 2011. Responding to his insurgent campaign’s first crisis, Herman Cain was upbeat and defiant. “To quote my chief of staff and all the people around this country, ‘Let Herman be Herman,’ ” he said Monday. “And Herman is gonna stay Herman.” I was afraid of that.

Washington Post, What Herman Cain recalls, Kathleen Parker, Nov. 1, 2011. Cain has repeatedly denied ever sexually harassing anyone. He also said he doesn’t remember another woman who Politico reports also filed a complaint and also got a settlement. When a reporter showed him the other woman’s name, he remembered her, but he said he has no recollection of a complaint or a settlement. On this he doesn’t budge and is convincing in his assertions.

Washington Post, Cain camp’s ties to Wis. charity questioned, Dan Eggen, Nov. 1, 2011. Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, hit with a barrage of questions Monday about allegations of sexual harassment, also faced new questions about financial ties between his campaign and a private charity run by two of his top aides. Citing internal financial documents, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a Wisconsin tax-exempt charity called Prosperity USA footed the bill for about $40,000 worth of iPads, chartered airplanes and other expenses as Cain’s campaign got off the ground early this year.
Des Moines Register, Iowans appear ready to give Cain benefit of the doubt on sexual harassment allegations, Jennifer Jacobs, Oct 31, 2011.
Iowa conservatives appear unready to jump off the Herman Cain train — unless damning evidence emerges that proves the presidential candidate was less than truthful Monday when he denied allegations of sexual harassment. The Des Moines Register spoke by phone with more than 20 likely Republican caucusgoers who participated in the Oct. 23-26 Iowa Poll, and none said the allegations had moved them to reject Cain as a potential pick.
NBC, NBC confirms one Cain accuser received cash settlement, Chuck Todd, Lisa Myers, and Domenico Montanaro, Oct. 31, 2011. NBC News has confirmed that one woman received a settlement from the National Restaurant Association after complaining about inappropriate sexual conduct by Herman Cain. NBC News is not disclosing the name of the woman nor characterizing who she is.

Huffington Post, Herman Cain Sexual Harassment Allegations: Mike Huckabee Accuses GOP Campaigns Of Leaking Story, Hayley Miller, Oct. 31, 2011. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said he could "almost guarantee" that the recent Politico story about sexual harassment allegations against Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain came from information leaked by another GOP campaign.
National Press Club, Cain denies sexual harassment, touts tax plan, sings spiritual at Club luncheon, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 31, 2011. GOP presidential contender Herman Cain rebutted a sexual harassment allegation, asserted that his tax plan would revitalize the country and sang a spiritual a cappella at a National Press Club luncheon on Oct. 31. Club President Mark Hamrick began the Q&A portion of the event by asking Cain about allegations that he sexually harassed two staff members when he was chief executive of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Politico reported on Oct. 30 that the organization paid the former staffers to settle the claim.
Huffington Post,Herman Cain Denies Sexual Harassment Allegations, Attempts To Sing His Way Out Of Trouble, Jon Ward, Oct. 31, 2011. Herman Cain escaped. The Republican presidential candidate made it off the stage at the National Press Club on Monday relatively unscathed, swatting back allegations that he sexually harassed two women in the 1990s and then closing out his appearance by singing about redemption. He is by no means out of the woods in dealing with the accusations. But the charismatic political performer survived his first high pressure moment in the spotlight with a dash of style.
Herman CainPolitico, 2 women accused Cain of inappropriate behavior, Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, Anna Palmer and Kenneth P. Vogel, Oct. 31, 2011. 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 is portrayed at left in a photo courtesy of Wikipedia.]
Associated Press, Cain says he was 'falsely accused' of harassment, Kasie Hunt, Oct. 31, 2011. Denying he ever sexually harassed anyone, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain declared Monday he was falsely accused in the 1990s while he was head of the National Restaurant Association and the allegations are surfacing now as part of a "witch hunt." The former pizza company executive was responding to a Politico report that said the trade group gave financial settlements to at least two female employees who had accused Cain of inappropriate sexual behavior. He said he didn't know whether the association provided any such settlements, and he declined to address specifics of the accusations or the resolution. "There's nothing else there to dig up," he declared at the National Press Club. "We have no idea the source of this witch hunt, which is really what it is." He added, "This bulls-eye on my back has gotten bigger."
Think Progress, Cain Smears Planned Parenthood: Accuses Group of ‘Genocide,’ Says Its Goal Is To ‘Kill Black Babies,’Judd Legum, Oct 30, 2011. Today on Face The Nation, GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain claimed that Planned Parenthood wants to “kill black babies and is part of an organized effort to commit “genocide” against the black community: *If people go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger’s own words, that’s exactly where that came from.Look– look up the history. So if you go back and look up the history– secondly, look at where most of them were built.Seventy-five percent of those facilities were built in the Black community."  Both of Cain’s proof points are demonstrably false. 
Cain’s statement about the location of Planned Parenthood clinics is wildly inaccuate. According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute from
January, “Fewer than one in 10 abortion clinics are located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods or those in which the majority of residents are black.”  Politifact previously evaluated the Cain’s claim that Planned Parenthood was created to “kill black babies” and deemed it “a ridiculous, cynical play of the race card."  In 2004 and 2006, Cain led a radical group that produced radio advertisements accusing Democrats of wanting to kill “black babies.”

Fishbowl DC, D.C. Photog Captures Famed Smoker, Betsy Rothstein, Oct. 31, 2011. At this point GOP Presidential contender Herman Cain‘s Chief of Staff Mark Block is as famed for his smoking as he is for anything else. Today Washington photographer Patrick Ryan gets a few closeups of Block doing — what else? — SMOKING outside the National Press Club, where his boss was speaking today during a sold-out luncheon. Block told Ryan, “You know what funniest thing is since this started? Yesterday somebody asked me to autograph their cigarette.”
Associated Press / Washington Post, Herman Cain’s deep ties to Koch brothers key to campaign, Oct. 16, 2011. Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has cast himself as the outsider, the pizza magnate with real-world experience who will bring fresh ideas to the nation’s capital. But Cain’s economic ideas, support and organization have close ties to two billionaire brothers who bankroll right-leaning causes through their group Americans for Prosperity.
Assange Ordered Deported To Sweden To Face Sex Claims
The Guardian / OpEd News, Julian Assange loses appeal against extradition; High court judges rule the WikiLeaks founder should face accusations of rape in Sweden, Robert Booth, Nov. 2, 2011. The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has lost his high court appeal against extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations. Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley on Wednesday handed down their judgment in the 40-year-old Australian's appeal against a European arrest warrant issued by Swedish prosecutors after rape and sexual assault accusations made by two Swedish women following his visit to Stockholm in August 2010. The judges ruled the issuing of the warrant and subsequent proceedings were "proportionate" and dismissed arguments that the warrant had been invalid and descriptions of the alleged offences unfair and inaccurate.