Cain faces allegations of ‘inappropriate behavior’

Citing multiple sources, Politico reported overnight that Herman Cain, during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, was accused by “at least two female employees” of “inappropriate behavior.” The women, who left the trade group, complained to colleagues and senior association officials that Cain engaged in “sexually suggestive behavior,” which made them “angry and uncomfortable.”

The association ultimately gave them financial payouts “in the five-figure range” to leave the group, but the agreement “included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.”

The exact nature of the allegations aren’t spelled out in the report, but Cain allegedly engaged in conversations “filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature,” as well as “physical gestures” that were “regarded as improper in a professional relationship.”

How a political candidate responds to charges like these is important. In this case, Cain and his campaign team were pressed for an explanation over 10 days, but repeatedly dodged questions about whether the Republican faced allegations of sexual harassment, as well as questions about the financial settlements with the accusers.

It led to this startling moment yesterday.

In a tense sidewalk encounter Sunday morning outside the Washington bureau of CBS News — where the Republican contender had just completed an interview on “Face the Nation” — Cain evaded a series of questions about sexual harassment allegations.

Cain said he has “had thousands of people working for me” at different businesses over the years and could not comment “until I see some facts or some concrete evidence.” His campaign staff was given the name of one woman who complained last week, and it was repeated to Cain on Sunday. He responded, “I am not going to comment on that.”

He was then asked, “Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life of harassment by a woman?”

He breathed audibly, glared at the reporter and stayed silent for several seconds. After the question was repeated three times, he responded by asking the reporter, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”

That’s not a denial. Indeed, it’s not even close.

In fact, once Politico reported its findings, the Cain campaign lashed out wildly, condemning the “political trade press,” and insisting that “liberals” are targeting Cain because he’s conservative. The initial statement, however, did not deny the details of the report. When J.D. Gordon, a Cain spokesperson, appeared on Fox News last night, he also refused to say whether the allegations are true.

It took a while, but this morning, the Cain campaign eventually said it’s denying the accuracy of the Politico report.

Cain, it turns out, will be in D.C. today for an event at the National Press Club. Expect a media circus — if the candidate keeps his commitment and shows up.