Presidential candidate Herman Cain's campaign has been rocked by a Politico report that revealed Cain was accused of sexual harassment by two female employees during his stint at the National Restaurant Association. Cain told Fox News this morning that he has “never sexually harassed anyone” but confirmed that he was accused of doing so in the past, claiming such accusations were "false." Past employees of Cain, including his long-time female executive assistant, have told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the charges are unbelievable.
“It’s just not Herman,” says Sibby Wolfson, who was Cain's executive assistant from 1997 through his first campaign for office in 2004, in a phone interview. “He’s got a lovely wife, a lovely family.”
Did Wolfson ever see Cain act in a way that could be construed as sexual harassment? “No, God, no,” she says. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, I think Herman was careful to act in the opposite way.”
Those who know Cain from his 2004 run for one of Georgia's U.S. Senate seats say the allegations are completely out of character.
“Never once have I ever seen anything but professional behavior” from Cain, says Matt Carrothers, who was Cain’s political director from December 2003 to July 2004. “I find [the allegations] extremely hard to believe,” Carrothers says in a phone interview.
After Cain lost the GOP primary in 2004, Carrothers continued to work for him at New Voice, Inc., the company from where Cain launched his radio show and syndicated column. Carrothers was at New Voice until July 2007, when the company scaled back operations as Cain’s treatment for cancer progressed. During those nearly four years, Carrothers says, he worked with Cain every day. Carrothers says he even asked Cain to officiate his wedding, and Cain, an associate Baptist minister, did so.
“This is a man of incredible character,” Carrothers says. “He has nothing but respect for women.”
Other veterans of the 2004 campaign agree. "The allegations seem completely unbelievable to me," says Karol Markowicz, who was Cain's assistant press secretary in '04. "He was never anything but a completely perfect gentleman." She says many who worked on that campaign have the same assessment.
"Sometimes someone is nice or good to you personally but you know they behave a different way toward other people," Markowicz says. "Herman is not like that. I never saw one moment where he wavered from being an upstanding, solid person."
Mark Harris, who was Pat Toomey’s campaign director in 2010, worked for Cain in 2004 and calls him a “great guy.”
“My experience with him in 2004 is that he was nothing but a gentleman,” Harris says in a phone interview. He says the sexual harassment allegations don’t fit Cain’s profile. “It’s not the Herman Cain I got to know.”
Ditto, says Alex Brunk, who was Cain’s deputy political director in 2004. “I never saw him treat women inappropriately or heard of him treating women inappropriately,” Brunk says.
Those who knew Cain since 2004 describe him as a “normal person,” in contrast, they say, with most politicians. They also cite the fact that Cain often placed women in important positions in his companies and organizations. Ericka Pertierra, for instance, worked for the Senate campaign before becoming chief operating officer of New Voice. None had heard about these allegations, however, until yesterday.