In two television interviews taped for Monday evening, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain denied any wrongdoing as he tried to clarify his story about the allegations he was accused of sexual harassment while serving as president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. In these interviews, Cain was more forthcoming yet still vague about the details surrounding the allegations than he and his campaign had previously been since the story broke Sunday evening.
Byron York reports on what Cain told Fox News Channel's Greta van Susteren:
Cain told van Susteren that he remembered one woman who was a writer in the Association's communications department. "I can't even remember her name, but I do remember the formal allegation she made in terms of sexual harassment," Cain said. "I turned it over to my general counsel and one of the ladies that worked for me, the woman in charge of human resources. They did investigate…and it was found to be baseless."
Van Susteren asked Cain how often he saw the woman. "I might see her in the office because her office was on the same floor as my office," Cain said. Van Susteren asked whether the woman traveled with Cain, who spent a lot of time on the road speaking to restaurant associations around the country. "No, never," Cain said.
Cain said the woman was "younger than I was," but he could not recall her age. Pressed, he said, "It would have had to have been late 30s, early 40s."
Van Susteren asked what Cain did that led to the accusation. There were reportedly more than one accusations in the complaint, but Cain said he recalled just one incident. "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."
Van Susteren asked whether the woman complained at the time. "I can't recall any comment that she made, positive or negative."
This lines up with much of what Cain also told Judy Woodruff of PBS, including the recounting of the "chin" incident. He also spoke to Woodruff about the nature of the settlement:
JUDY WOODRUFF: And in terms of the settlement which was reached by the Restaurant Association, you as the CEO were not aware of that, or you were aware of that?
HERMAN CAIN: I was not. I was aware that an agreement was reached. The word "settlement" versus the word "agreement," you know, I'm not sure what they called it. I know that there was some sort of agreement, but because it ended up being minimal, they didn't have to bring it to me. My general counsel and the head of human resources had the authority to resolve this thing. So it wasn't one of those things where it got above a certain authority level and I had to sign it. If I did -- and I don't think I did -- I don't even remember signing it because it was minimal in terms of what the agreement was.
Cain told van Susteren that the settlement with one woman was "in the five-figure range" and also "maybe three months' salary."
Cain's answers Monday night are much more detailed than the denials he and his campaign had been making since Politico published the original story Sunday night. Campaign spokesman J. D. Gordon called the charges made in the story "unsubstantiated personal attacks," "thinly sourced allegations," and "rumors that never stood up to the facts." Cain himself refrained from commenting on Sunday after one of the Politico reporters, Jonathan Martin, asked him about the allegations outside of CBS's Washington studios.
On Monday morning, Cain appeared at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington to discuss his 9-9-9 tax plan. Although a question from ABC's Jonathan Karl about the harassment allegations, Cain did not respond. At the same time, campaign chief of staff Mark Block appeared on MSNBC and denied the allegation, saying Cain "never sexually harassed anybody."
Shortly after his event at AEI, Cain appeared on Fox News to deny the charges. "I have never sexually harassed anyone," he said, while also admitting for the first time since the story broke that he had been accused of sexual harassment in the past.
"I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association," Cain said. "It turned out after the investigation to be baseless." He reiterated this point while speaking at a lunch at the National Press Club in Washington this afternoon. "There is nothing else to dig up," he said, also saying he did not know about the supposed settlements the association had made with the accusers.
Cain's TV interviews tonight show that, at best, he was not informed of the settlements until appearing or, at worst, he lied about not knowing about the settlements before his interviews with van Susteren and Woodruff.