WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain planned to make several scheduled appearances in Washington on Monday following a report that alleges he was twice accused of sexual harassment while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
In a statement Sunday to The Associated Press, his campaign disputed the Politico report that said Cain had been accused of sexually suggestive behavior toward at least two female employees.
The report said the women signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them five-figure financial payouts to leave the association and barred them from discussing their departures. Neither woman was identified.
The report was based on anonymous sources and, in one case, what the publication said was a review of documentation that described the allegations and the resolution.
Cain's campaign told the AP that the allegations were not true, and amounted to unfair attacks.
"Inside-the-Beltway media have begun to launch unsubstantiated personal attacks on Cain," spokesman J.D. Gordon said in a written statement. "Dredging up thinly sourced allegations stemming from Mr. Cain's tenure as the Chief Executive Officer at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, political trade press are now casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts."
Asked if Cain's campaign was denying the report, Gordon said, "Yes."
"These are baseless allegations," Gordon said in a second interview later Sunday evening. "To my knowledge, this is not an accurate story."
But Politico said that Gordon told their publication that Cain himself had indicated to campaign officials that he was "vaguely familiar" with the charges and that the restaurant association's general counsel had resolved the matter.
Politico also said it confronted Cain early Sunday outside of the CBS News Washington bureau, where he had just been interviewed on "Face the Nation."
"I am not going to comment on that," he told Politico when asked specifically about one of the woman's claims.
When asked if he had ever been accused of harassment by a woman, he responded, Politico said, by asking the reporter, "Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?"
Cain — a self-styled outsider relatively new to the national stage — is facing a new level of scrutiny after a burst of momentum in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. He's been steadily at or near the top of national surveys and polls in early presidential nominating states, competitive with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The former pizza company executive has been pointing to his long record in business to argue that he has the credentials needed to be president during a time of economic strife.
Cain is slated to discuss his tax plan at the American Enterprise Institute, appear at the National Press Club and hold a health care briefing on Capitol Hill.
A message seeking comment from Peter Kilgore, listed on the National Restaurant Association website as its chief legal counsel, was not immediately returned.
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