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Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain denied a report that he sexually harassed two female employees while he served as head of the National Restaurant Association during the 1990s.
“I have never sexually harassed anyone,” he said in an interview today on Fox News. “It is totally baseless and totally false.”
Cain’s campaign is moving to control any political damage from a Politico report that at least two female employees complained to colleagues and restaurant association officials about sexually suggestive behavior by Cain. The women, unnamed in the report, received separation packages in the five-figure range, the website reported yesterday.
“If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn’t even aware of it,” said Cain. “And I hope it wasn’t for much, because nothing happened.”
The former fast-food executive is facing a new level of scrutiny as polls show him gaining ground in the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Cain’s campaign, in a statement last night, said the Politico report relied on “thinly sourced allegations” and was “unsubstantiated.”
“Since Washington establishment critics haven’t had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain’s ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can,” campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon said in the statement.
Leaving a tax-policy forum at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. today, Cain described himself as an “unconventional” candidate with “a sense of humor.” Both are seen in a campaign website ad picturing his manager puffing on a cigarette and closing with a close-up of Cain smiling.
‘Herman Be Herman’
“Some people have a problem with that,” Cain said of his style. “Herman be Herman, and Herman gonna stay Herman.”
The former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive cites his business experience in his campaign, saying his background will help him boost the struggling economy.
In his AEI remarks today, Cain said his ultimate goal is to shift the U.S. to a “pure consumption tax.”
Cain would scrap the tax code and replace it with a 9 percent national sales tax and 9 percent levies on business and individual income. The so-called 9-9-9 plan has bolstered his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Cain spent two years as volunteer chairman of the National Restaurant Association, and then left his company in 1996 to lead the Washington-based trade group full time.
In that role he lobbied against a ban on indoor smoking, increases in the minimum wage, stricter workplace safety standards and lower blood alcohol limits for drunken driving. He also worked in favor of welfare overhaul and bigger tax deductions for business meals.
Cain worked closely with tobacco companies, particularly R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., according to company documents available in an online archive.
--With reporting by Alison Fitzgerald and Steven Sloan in Washington. Editors: Mark Silva, Robin Meszoly
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