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Herman Cain goes nuclear on Rick Perry over harassment reports

November 03, 2011|By James Oliphant
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty…)

Herman Cain seems to know who’s to blame for long-buried sexual harassment allegations against him suddenly seeing the light of day: Rick Perry.

Cain and his campaign have pointed the finger squarely at the Texas governor. In an interview with Forbes, Cain suggested that Curt Anderson, a GOP consultant who worked on Cain’s 2004 U.S. Senate bid and who now works for Perry, leaked the information to the press.

Cain said he briefed Anderson on one allegation of harassment stemming from his time as head of at the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s.

Mark Block, Cain’s chief of staff, took it one step further Wednesday evening in an interview on Fox News, suggesting that Perry’s campaign and Politico, which broke the story, have been working hand-in-hand to bring Cain down.

“The actions of the Perry campaign are despicable. Rick Perry and his campaign owe Herman Cain and his family an apology,” Block said. “Both the Rick Perry campaign and Politico did the wrong thing by reporting something that wasn’t true from anonymous sources and like I said they owe Herman Cain and his family an apology.”

Block said the Cain camp had no hard evidence to support the allegations—but thought the timing was peculiar.

“Approximately two weeks ago Mr. Anderson went to work for the Rick Perry campaign. What else happened about two weeks ago? Politico began this smear campaign citing anonymous sources citing Mr. Cain acted inappropriately,” Block said.

When contacted, Anderson immediately denied leaking the information, saying he didn’t know about harassment allegations until recently.

“I’ve known Herman Cain for about seven years. I was one of several consultants on his Senate race in 2004 and was proud to help him,” Anderson said. “I'd never heard any of these allegations until I read them in Politico, nor does anything I read in the press change my opinion that Herman is an upstanding man and a gentleman. I have great respect for Herman and his character and I would never speak ill of him, on the record or off the record. That's true today and it's not going to change.”

For Cain, going nuclear on Perry is the latest gambit in a media strategy that has careened wildly his week, with the candidate giving a myriad of interviews in which he has, at times, seemingly contradicted his own account of his knowledge of whatever took place at the association. Complicating his efforts was a new report from the Associated Press that said a third woman considered complaining about Cain’s conduct at the restaurant association.

(Also, in telling the media that he briefed Anderson on at least one of the allegations, Cain seems to be conceding that he has been aware of them for years. Earlier this week, he claimed that he was just beginning to recall the details.)

And after talking nonstop about the allegations to the media for two days, Cain froze out reporters on the subject during appearances in Washington on Wednesday.

Blaming Perry may be an act of political gamesmanship as well. The Texas governor is chasing the kind of conservative voters who have flocked to Cain in recent weeks—and by suggesting Perry as the source of the allegations (which so far haven’t seem to have damaged Cain too much in the eyes of his supporters), Cain’s campaign may be trying to limit defections.

Perry, appearing on Fox News’ “Hannity” Wednesday night only had good things to say about Cain. "I think Herman Cain is a very likable individual in a personal way,” Perry said.

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