Herman Cain changes answers to allegations of sexual harassment (with video)

The Takeaway

Story from The Takeaway. Listen to the above audio for a complete report.

Herman Cain was accused of sexual harassment by two female employees while he was head of the National Restaurant Association, Politico reported Sunday afternoon.

The women left their jobs after reaching settlements with the industry group. Cain vehemently denied the accusations on Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, but went on to make contradictory statements about the incidents on Fox News.

“We have no idea of the source of this witch hunt, which is really what it is,” Cain said at the Press Club.

Ron Christie, a Republican political strategist, said these allegations amount to a 21st-century lynching, much like what Justice Clarence Thomas went through with his U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.

“If the allegations are true — allegations by anonymous women, we don’t know what their specific allegations are, we don’t know the names of these women, we don’t have anything to judge the credibility or assess the statements by — then he’s finished,” Christie said. “If they’re not true and they are simply allegations…it brings to my mind whether a question is in play here of if there is a double standard,” when comparing the reaction toward Cain and the reaction toward former President Bill Clinton.

Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway’s Washington correspondent, heard Cain speak at the National Press Club and said he was totally consistent about what he knew, when he knew it and what he may have done.

“He said he’d never sexually harassed anyone and he was not aware of any settlement being made pursuant to it,” Zwillich said.

But that didn’t last all day. Zwillich said during appearances on the PBS News Hour and on Fox News later in the day, Zwillich steadily gave himself more wiggle room and even admitted, when talking to Fox News, to being aware of a settlement with one of the women.

“It is a different story, a very different story not only from his statements during the day but also from very clear statements that were made by his spokespeople over the weekend,” Zwillich said.

Christie said this behavior, the changing statements about what he knew and did, exposes the biggest weakness of Cain as a candidate: whether the allegations are true.

“He doesn’t seem to have a specific set of concrete, bedrock he’s standing in,” Christie said. “Here’s my position, come hell or the highway, here’s my position…it seems to be more of a zigzag. This is my position this hour.”

Christie said the way he’s handled this situation thus far may ultimately doom Cain as a presidential candidate.


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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