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Republicans urge Herman Cain to tell all in harassment flap

November 06, 2011|By Peter Nicholas | Washington Bureau
(William B. Plowman/NBC/AP )

Prominent Republicans called on Herman Cain to disclose full details of the sexual harassment allegations that have dogged his presidential campaign for the last week, saying the candidate must address lingering questions about the incidents.

Cain, speaking to reporters after a debate in Texas on Saturday night, said he would not provide any more specifics, asserting that "everything has been answered."

"We’re getting back on message," Cain said.

Cain needs to be more forthcoming than that, some fellow Republicans said on the Sunday morning talk shows. GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said Cain needs to "get the information out and get it out in total."

Huntsman, appearing on NBC’s "Meet the Press," said "legitimate questions have been raised and that information has to come forward."

Two women reportedly received financial settlements stemming from Cain’s behavior in the late 1990s, when he was president of the National Restaurant Assn.

An attorney for one of the women said last week that Cain had subjected her to "a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances."

Cain has denied that he sexually harassed anyone. Beyond the matter of what took place between Cain and the women, the uproar has tested his ability to manage a crisis. After Politico first broke the story, Cain gave a series of sometimes conflicting statements about what happened. Now he seems determined to drop the subject entirely.

Before Cain can move on, he must come out with more answers, said Haley Barbour, Republican governor of Mississippi.

"What he wants to do is get back on message," Barbour said on "Meet the Press," "and the way to do that is to get all the facts on the table and get it behind him."

Continuing, Barbour said: "I’m not one of the people who think this is necessarily fatal. It might not hurt him at all. But people need to know what the facts are. And that’s the challenge for him right now – to get those out as quickly as possible and get it behind him."

Cain had been surging in the polls when the story broke, emerging as the latest challenger to Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney. A new poll suggests the uproar has broken his momentum.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey showed that Cain’s favorability rating among Republicans has fallen nine points – from 66% to 57%.

Cain is also laboring under criticism that his command of basic public policy issues is poor. In an interview last week with PBS NewsHour, he said that China was "trying to develop nuclear capability .… " China first tested an atom bomb in 1964, according to the Federation of American Scientists, a nonpartisan think tank.

Huntsman, who served as U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama, said: "There needs to be a baseline level of knowledge from a foreign policy standpoint."

Huntsman is trailing badly in the polls and has yet to gain any traction against Romney. Using his national TV forum, he said Romney lacks a "core."

That same line of attack against Romney – indeed, the same word choice – has come from one of Obama’s chief campaign strategists, David Axelrod.

Because of Romney’s vacillation on the issues, he would not be able to beat Obama in the 2012 election, Huntsman said.

“When there’s a question about whether you’re running for the White House or the Waffle House, you’ve got a real problem with the American people,’’ Huntsman said.

As an example of what he called a Romney “flip-flop,’’ he mentioned abortion. Romney opposes abortion rights, though he once took the opposite position.

“What the American people want today more than anything else is a level of consistency,’’ Huntsman said. “They want trust.’’

Meanwhile, Obama was being criticized by Republicans for his leadership, with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) taking a swipe in another Sunday morning interview.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,’’ Boehner accused Obama of inflaming class resentment, a reference to Obama’s call for a tax structure in which wealthier Americans pay a higher rate.

“We are not going to engage in class warfare,’’ Boehner said. “The president is out there doing it every day. I frankly think it’s unfortunate, because our job is to help all Americans, not to pit one set of Americans against another.’’

The White House did not immediately offer a reaction.

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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