WASHINGTON - Herman Cain, a maverick conservative Republican businessman who briefly led the race for the U.S. party’s 2012 presidential nomination, died Thursday from the coronavirus. He was 74.
Cain had been hospitalized for a month in the southern city of Atlanta and initially appeared to regain strength but faltered again in recent days.
Cain attended President Donald Trump’s political rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20 that led to numerous coronavirus infections. But Cain, who was seen not wearing a mask during the rally, said he had traveled extensively elsewhere about the same time. It is not known where he contracted the virus that has now killed more than 150,000 Americans.
At his death, Cain was chairman of Black Voices for Trump. Last year, the president nominated Cain to a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, the U.S. central bank, but Cain withdrew after opposition mounted against him.
“Because I ran as a Republican for president and the United States Senate, and because I am an outspoken voice of conservatism, an outspoken voice of the Constitution and the laws, I’m being attacked,” Cain said.
Cain held a string of corporate executive positions throughout his life, most prominently from 1986 to 1996 as president and chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, a national chain that he transformed into a success after it had been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
In 2011, as he campaigned for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, he pushed for sweeping tax reform that he called his “9-9-9 Plan” — a 9% business transactions tax, a 9% personal income tax, and a 9% federal sales tax.
Cain briefly pulled ahead of eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney in political surveys a year ahead of the election, but he withdrew from the race in December 2011, after two women accused him of sexual harassment while he was chief executive of the National Restaurant Association from 1996 to 1999.
Cain denied the charges, and his wife Gloria stood by him, saying, “He totally respects women.”
In a tweet, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said, “Herman Cain embodied the American Dream and represented the very best of the American spirit.” She also added, “Our hearts grieve for his loved ones, and they will remain in our prayers at this time. We will never forget his legacy of grace, patriotism, and faith.”