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Sexual Harassment Controversy Continues to Engulf Herman Cain


Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks at the Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington, November 4, 2011.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks at the Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington, November 4, 2011.

In U.S. presidential politics, Republican Herman Cain remains at the center of a political storm over allegations of sexual harassment going back to the late 1990’s. On Friday, an attorney for one of three women who complained about alleged unwanted advances from Cain took issue with the candidate’s insistence that he did nothing wrong.

Herman Cain acknowledges that he was the subject of sexual harassment complaints in the late 1990’s, but says he has never sexually harassed anyone.

Attorney Joel Bennett took issue with that denial Friday. Bennett represents one of the women who brought a complaint against Cain when he was head of the National Restaurant Association. Bennett said his client does not wish to speak publicly about the matter, but does take issue with Cain’s insistence that he did nothing wrong.

“My client filed a written complaint in 1999 against him specifically, and it had very specific incidents in it, and if he chooses to not remember or not acknowledge those, that is his issue.”

Bennett said the woman in question complained about several incidents of sexual harassment allegedly involving Cain. Bennett said the woman later left the association after securing a monetary settlement.

The National Restaurant Association also issued a statement confirming that it had reached a settlement with the woman in 1999.

Bennett did not divulge any more specifics about the alleged incidents between his client and Herman Cain, and said he was not aware of the details of similar complaints brought against Cain by two other women who worked at the association.

“There is an expression, ‘where there is smoke there is fire.' The fact that there are multiple complaints tells me that it is more likely than not that there was some sexual harassment activity by this man at that time. All of that subject to proof.”

Cain did not directly address the controversy over the sexual harassment complaints earlier in the day when he spoke before a friendly conservative audience in the nation's capital.

“I’ve been in Washington all week and I have attracted a little bit of attention,” said Cain.

Earlier in the week, Cain denied any wrongdoing in a speech before the National Press Club.

“I have never sexually harassed anyone and those accusations are totally false,” said Cain.

Many Cain supporters say they are standing with the candidate despite the allegations, including Josh McKoon, who is the co-chairman of Cain’s presidential campaign in his home state of Georgia.

“The only thing that we have seen this week is that people are doubling their commitment getting even more involved because they are so angry at the national press,” he said.

A new ABC News poll shows Cain remains near the top of the Republican presidential field. But political analysts say the sexual harassment controversy threatens to become a major distraction for Cain, who hopes to maintain his momentum leading up to the January 3 Iowa caucuses. The caucus vote officially begins the Republican nominating process that will result in the selection of a party nominee to face President Barack Obama next year.




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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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