Video: Cain calls harassment claims ‘fabrication’

  1. Transcript of: Cain calls harassment claims ‘fabrication’

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now to politics. The campaign saga of Herman Cain continued today as he continued to push back against the sexual harassment allegations swirling around him. And we may be close to hearing more of the story from one of the women who accused him of improper behavior. Our report from NBC 's Lisa Myers .

    LISA MYERS reporting: Just when you thought this story couldn't get more unusual, Herman Cain showed up on a conservative website this morning being interviewed by Jenny Thomas , the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas . The message, another black conservative is being mistreated by the media.

    Mr. HERMAN CAIN: That is the DC culture, guilty until proven innocent .

    MYERS: Clarence Thomas was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill during his confirmation hearings. And in the eyes of many conservatives, was badly treated by the media.

    Mr. CHARLIE COOK (NBC News Political Analyst): There are lots of conservative journalists he could have sat down with, but only one would have reminded people of Clarence Thomas and the whole Anita Hill affair.

    MYERS: Amid this media frenzy , Cain 's fundraising has actually soared. Advisers say he's collected more than a million dollars online in four days. Cain was pressed by conservative Sean Hannity about the reports this week that three women complained in the 1990s about Cain 's inappropriate sexual conduct.

    Mr. CAIN: Sean , this is absolutely fabrication, man. I don't what else to say. How many more ways can I say this stuff is totally fabricated.'

    MYERS: Earlier this year Cain assured a conservative blogger he had no skeletons in his closet.

    Mr. CAIN: I can assure you, I have an original copy of my birth certificate. I don't have any illegitimate babies. I don't have any mistresses.

    MYERS: Cain 's campaign manager is calling on all his accusers to stop hiding behind anonymity.

    Mr. MARK BLOCK (Cain Campaign Manager): I would challenge anybody that has these statements to be made to come forward with the person making the statements, face Mr. Cain .

    MYERS: One accuser who had said she wanted to get her story out now says she's decided to let her lawyer, Joel Bennett , do the talking because "she doesn't want to become another Anita Hill ."

    Mr. JOEL BENNETT: She's a very intelligent, highly educated woman and she's trying to live a normal life.

    MYERS: Today Politico reported this woman received a $45,000 settlement, larger than Cain has suggested. Today, Bennett provided the National Restaurant Association with the statement reflecting her version of events which he hopes the group will agree does not violate the confidentiality agreement and could be released to the public as soon as tomorrow. He says the statement does not reveal unpleasant and sensational details of the

    incidence. Brian: Lisa Myers in DC tonight, thanks.

    WILLIAMS:

Herman Cain
Carolyn Kaster  /  AP
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain gestures as he speaks at the Congressional Health Caucus Thought Leaders Series, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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updated 11/3/2011 7:38:20 PM ET 2011-11-03T23:38:20

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain struggled to overcome the storm of controversy from sexual harassment accusations on Thursday as the threat of a damaging written statement by one of his accusers and his own shifting explanations left his efforts and even his candidacy in doubt.

"This will not deter me" in the race for the White House, Cain declared, repeatedly denying the allegations in interviews on conservative media outlets.

"Did you tell a woman she looked good?" radio host Sean Hannity asked. "That dress looks hot?"
"Nope."

"Any flirtation that you can think of?"

"Nope," Cain said firmly.

Video: Cain calls harassment claims ‘fabrication’ (on this page)

At the same time, he and aides tried to demonstrate a campaign returning to normalcy or even benefiting from the controversy.

Cain, a career businessman, held private meetings in New York during the day, including one on foreign policy with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

And campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon said donors had sent in $1.2 million since news of the allegations first surfaced, far above the customary amount for several days.

In a personal note, Cain said his wife, Gloria, was "still 200 percent supportive of me in this whole race, 200 percent supportive of me as her husband, because I haven't done anything."

The furor erupted at a time when Cain had vaulted to the top of public opinion polls as a leading conservative challenger to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination — adding spice to a race already as unpredictable as any in recent memory.

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Since it was reported late Sunday that at least two women had complained about Cain when they worked at the National Restaurant Association — and had received financial settlements — Cain has said consistently he never sexually harassed anyone. But his answers to other pertinent questions have changed. In one instance, he first denied knowing of any settlements with former employees, then said he recalled one, explaining he had been aware of an "agreement" but not a "settlement."

Cain turns to the blame game

On Wednesday, Cain said he believed a political consultant on his 2004 Senate campaign who now is helping presidential rival Rick Perry had leaked the information. But he backed off on the day after. "If he didn't ask me about this and he was my general political consultant, then he didn't do his job," Cain said, referring to Curt Anderson. "I am almost certain that I did" tell him about an allegation.

Anderson denied leaking the information and said he first saw the accusations in the Politico report that started the week's events.

Texas Gov. Perry, who fell in opinion polls as Cain rose, also repeated denials that his campaign had anything to do with the reports. He said on CNN, "This is over, it's gone, it's done with and I'm pressing on."

Media coverage continued. Politico, citing anonymous sources, reported that one of the women contended that Cain made a sexual overture to her and invited her to his hotel room during a National Restaurant Association event in the late 1990s. The report said the woman was livid and complained to a member of the group's board later that night.

The publication cited multiple sources, including an acquaintance of the woman and a person who attended the restaurant association meeting at which the woman lodged her complaint.

In a television interview on Thursday with Fox News Channel, Mark Block, Cain's chief of staff, first stood by his accusation that consultant Anderson first leaked details, then he reversed course. "Until we get all the facts, I'm just going to say we accept what Mr. Anderson said."

It was unclear when all the facts might emerge.

Joel Bennett, an attorney for one of the women alleging sexual harassment, said he was seeking permission from the National Restaurant Association to release a statement on her behalf. Under an agreement stemming from her accusation in 1999, the woman agreed not to speak publicly about the episode she said occurred when she worked for the trade group and Cain was its president.

Asked whether he would like his former employer to agree to the request, Cain sidestepped.

"That's totally their decision," he said on Hannity's program. "I can't ask them to do that because that would create a legal liability that I don't want to be responsible for." Sue Hensley, a spokeswoman for the restaurant group, said its lawyers were reviewing the draft statement and would respond on Friday.

Cain specifically denied allegations by a third woman who told The Associated Press this week that she had considered filing a workplace complaint against him alleging aggressive and unwanted behavior, including a private invitation to his corporate apartment.

Story: Cain camp points to Perry for harassment leak

He criticized a pollster who did work for the restaurant association when he worked there as politically hostile to him. The pollster, Chris Wilson, said in an interview with AP this week that he witnessed Cain making inappropriate comments and gestures toward a different young woman who worked for the group. He said the event occurred at a dinner in a hotel in Arlington, Va., in the late 1990s.

Cain's presidential rivals generally steered clear of the controversy, preferring to let it play out without offering an opinion on the charges.

"The voters won't find surprises with me. My policy positions have been nothing if not consistent," Rep. Michele Bachmann told Fox News while campaigning in Iowa on Thursday. "I'm not going to comment. It's up to the voters."

Rep. Tom Price, a member of a Georgia delegation that met with Cain earlier in the week, said he's waiting for the details to shake out.

"It's like predicting the end of a football game at the halftime," said Price. "You can't do it."

In one of his interviews during the day, Cain told the conservative Daily Caller it can be disorienting campaigning in the nation's capital.

"The way questions are asked, when I'm speaking to a group here in D.C. is coming from a totally different perspective than when I'm being asked questions from the real people. The real people come at it, here's the problem, what do you think the solution is?

Video: When pressed on allegations, Cain gets testy (on this page)

"Inside D.C., inside the bubble as you call it, they're coming at the perspective of skepticism. ... You can't get it done. You're going to get knocked down. And you can just feel it in the way they ask the question and the way they respond."

Apart from seeking to burnish his credentials as a political outsider, Cain and his allies have also claimed that as a black conservative, he is subject to harshness because of his race. After listening to Hannity play recordings of vociferous critics, Cain said, "I'm a black conservative, and it is causing their heads to explode."

_____

Associated Press writers Steven Ohlemacher, Brett Blackledge and Laurie Kellman contributed to this story.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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