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Herman Cain heads for Capitol as pressure builds

November 02, 2011|By James Oliphant
(Jason Reed / Reuters )

With the glare of a spotlight that seems to be growing ever hotter, Herman Cain will try to resume campaigning Wednesday with a full plate of events in the D.C. region.

Cain is scheduled to spend the morning in Northern Virginia before journeying to Capitol Hill, a scene that promises to be a raging media circus. Cain is expected to address the congressional healthcare caucus before meeting privately with GOP lawmakers at a private club near the Capitol.

Looming over the proceedings, however, will be the now very real possibility that details of both of the alleged sexual harassment incidents stemming from Cain’s tenure at the National Restaurant Assn. will continue to come to light.

The New York Times reported Tuesday evening that one of Cain’s accusers received a $35,000 severance — a year’s salary — from the trade group in part because Cain’s actions made her uncomfortable. That came on the heels of a lawyer for another accuser telling the Washington Post that his client wants to tell her side of the story but cannot because she is bound by a confidentiality pledge that was part of her settlement.

Cain has repeatedly maintained that he knows nothing of the episode referred to in the Times story, which reported that his actions took place at an event in which heavy drinking occurred.

And as to the other accuser, Cain has yet to say whether she should be released from her confidentiality agreement, citing possible “legal implications.” The association would have the power to release her from the contract, but it has yet to indicate whether it will. Cain has portrayed her settlement as a small one involving a few months salary.

On CNN on Tuesday evening, the woman's lawyer, Joel Bennett, said her client believes Cain is not telling the truth about the harassment allegations.

"She's been very upset about this since the story broke last Sunday, because Mr. Cain has been giving the impression she came out and made false allegations," he said. "That's certainly not true, and she's still deciding once we hear from the restaurant association what she'll do if they'll waive the confidentiality. Until they do that, she's not going to speak out."

The former Godfather’s Pizza executive has consistently denied any harassing conduct occurred and has suggested his opponents are engaged in a “smear campaign.” He also, for the first time in a Fox News interview Tuesday evening, intimated that he believes his status as an African American conservative might make him more of a target.

Until now, Cain has had the luxury of relating his version of events without challenge—although he has managed to do that in a less-than-stellar fashion, seemingly contradicting himself at several turns. That may soon change.

Another subplot to follow Wednesday will be the comportment of Republicans on the Hill. Will some embrace Cain and his maverick candidacy? Will others keep their distance? And will Cain himself keep trying to explain away the allegations — or try to steer the topic back to his campaign?

Here's Cain on Fox News Channel on Tuesday evening addressing the allegations:

Here's Joel Bennett's interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper:

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