By Brian Montopoli
By Brian Montopoli
October 31, 2011(CBS)
Responding to allegations of inappropriate interactions with two women when he was head of the National Restaurant Association, Herman Cain said Monday that he “never sexually harassed anyone” and called the allegations “baseless.”
“I’ve never sexually harassed anyone, and yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association, and I say falsely, because it turned out, after the investigation, to be baseless,” he said on Fox News.
“It is totally baseless, and totally false, never have I committed any sort of sexual harassment,” he added.
Cain was asked if he has ever had to settle a sexual harassment or sexual misconduct claim, false or otherwise.
“Outside of the Restaurant Association, absolutely not,” he said. “If the Restaurant Association did a settlement, I am not – I wasn’t even aware of it and I hope it wasn’t for much, because nothing happened. So if there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers that worked for me at the Association. So the answer is absolutely not.”
Cain was not asked what he understood the allegations to be, and was not pressed on his claim that he was unaware of a settlement in the wake of the allegations.
Cain said that if more allegations surface, it will be because people “simply make them up.” He said “the only other allegations will be trumped up allegations.”
“There is nothing else,” he said.
Cain, who is at the top of polls for the Republican presidential nomination, vowed to “stay on message” going forward.
“Now, obviously, some people are going to be turned off by this cloud that someone wanted to put over my campaign, but a lot of people aren’t going to be turned off,” he said. “We will just have to wait and see what happens.”
On Sunday night, Politico reported that while Cain was 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.”
The story, which cited “multiple sources” including one “with close ties to the restaurant association” and another it called “familiar with Cain’s tenure in Washington”
said the women complained of “sexually suggestive behavior” by Cain. It said the woman received financial payouts upon leaving the group and that their departure agreements barred them from discussing the circumstances of their departure.
At an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute shortly before the Fox News interview, Cain did not directly address the controversy, but he took the microphone at the end of his remarks to say this: “By the way folks – yes, I am an unconventional candidate, and yes, I do have a sense of humor, and some people have a problem with that. But to quote my chief of staff and all the people around this country, let Herman be Herman, and Herman is gonna stay Herman. Thank you very much.”
That chief of staff, Mark Block, said in an interview with MSNBC earlier in the day, “Herman Cain has never sexually harassed anybody. Period. End of story.”
Photo by: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images