Embattled GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain took the unusual step Monday of taking to the airwaves to preemptively defend himself against allegations that he carried on a 13-year affair before the report detailing the accusations had aired.
“I wanted to get out in front of it,” Cain told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer as news of the impending report by an Atlanta television station began to spread. “I have nothing to hide.” (Watch video below.)
WAGA-TV in Atlanta is reporting that the woman in question is Ginger White, an Atlanta businesswoman.
“It was pretty simple,” White says in a report to air Monday evening. “It wasn't complicated. I was aware that he was married. And I was also aware I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship.”
Cain insisted to CNN that the woman, whom he did not name, was a “friend.”
“That’s all there is to the relationship,” he said, adding that he tried to help her because she did not have a job.
Asked by Blitzer whether it was an affair: “No, it was not,” he said.
Cain said he would respond to specific allegations through his attorney, Lin Wood. “When we know the story, we will respond,” he said.
Even as Cain was denying the allegations to Blitzer, Wood sent a response to the television station suggesting that the candidate would not be addressing them. And while Cain told Blitzer that the allegations were false, Wood's statement did not contain an unequivocal denial.
"Mr. Cain has been informed today that your television station plans to broadcast a story this evening in which a female will make an accusation that she engaged in a 13-year-long physical relationship with Mr. Cain. This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace -- this is not an accusation of an assault -- which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate," Wood wrote.
"Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults -- a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door," he said. "Mr. Cain has alerted his wife to this new accusation and discussed it with her. He has no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so even if his principled position is viewed unfavorably by members of the media."
Pressed by Blitzer, Cain on CNN for the first time suggested that the mounting allegations of sexual impropriety could push him to drop out of the presidential race because of the toll they are taking on his family. "That's my No. 1 concern," he said.
Cain was accused of sexual harassment by at least two women during his tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Assn. in the late 1990s. Both entered into confidential settlements. A third woman, Sharon Bialek of Chicago, has publicly accused Cain of an improper sexual advance while the two were parked in a car on a Washington street in 1997.
The allegations have also appeared to have damaged his candidacy, perhaps critically. Cain acknowledged as much to Blitzer. "I know I have fallen in the polls," he said. "But I didn't fall to the bottom."