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Herman Cain grilled on scandal at debate, mocks Pelosi as 'Princess Nancy'

November 09, 2011|By James Oliphant
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and businessman Herman Cain on stage before the CNBC Republican presidential debate in Rochester, Mich.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and businessman Herman Cain… (Rebecca Cook / Reuters )

It didn't take long for the subject of Herman Cain's alleged improprieties to surface in Wednesday evening's GOP presidential debate in suburban Detroit. And Cain may not have helped himself with regard to his views toward women by mocking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as "Princess Nancy."

There was some thought that the topic might be off-limits in the economy-themed debate, but moderator Maria Bartiromo didn't hesitate to confront Cain on the accusations. The CNBC host asked that if corporations care about the character of their chief executive officers, why shouldn't Americans care about the character of their presidential candidates?

"Why should American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?" she asked.

There was little doubt what she was talking about. And it didn't have much to do with the economy.

Cain was ready and was backed by a raucous, partisan crowd that cheered and hooted on nearly his every word.

He again called the accusations -- reportedly brought by four woman who say Cain engaged in sexual misconduct while the head of the National Restaurant Assn. in Washington more than a decade ago -- "false."

"I value my character and my integrity more than anything else," Cain said, adding that his supporters remained enthusiastic. "Over the last nine days, the voters have voted with their dollars, and they're saying they don't care about the character assassination. They care about leadership and getting this economy going."

Mitt Romney was then asked whether, if he were running a company, he would hire someone accused of inappropriate behavior such as Cain. Romney quickly demurred.

"Herman Cain is the person to respond to these questions," Romney replied. "The people in the room and across the country can make their own assessment."

The crowed cheered wildly.

But Cain provided another potentially polarizing moment minutes later. When asked about healthcare reform in the last Congress, he derisively referred to Pelosi, the House speaker at the time and the only woman to ever hold the post, as "Princess Nancy."

It may not have been the wisest move for a candidate trying to persuade women voters to stay with him.

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