WASHINGTON — A third former employee considered filing a workplace complaint against Herman Cain over what she deemed aggressive and unwanted behavior when she and Cain, now a Republican presidential candidate, worked together during the late 1990s, the woman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. She said the behavior included a private invitation to his corporate apartment.
The woman said he made sexually suggestive remarks or gestures about the same time that two co-workers had settled separate harassment complaints against Cain, who was then the head of the National Restaurant Association.
Cain's campaign denied anew that he'd done anything wrong, decried a "smear campaign" as he is riding high in opinion polls and accused rival Rick Perry's operation of being behind the original stories.
Perry's campaign denied any involvement — and suggested the campaign of yet another candidate, Mitt Romney, might be a source.
A woman interviewed several times by the AP said she did not file a formal complaint against Cain because she began having fewer interactions with him. Later, she learned that a co-worker — one of the two women whose accusations have rocked Cain's campaign this week — had already done so. She said she would have felt she had to file otherwise.
The woman spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying she feared losing her current job and the possibility of damage to her reputation. She was located and approached by the AP as part of its investigation into harassment complaints against Cain that were disclosed in recent days and have thrown his presidential campaign into turmoil. She said she was reluctant to describe the encounters she had with Cain when they worked together at the Washington-based restaurant trade group.
The employee described in conversations with the AP over several days situations in which she said Cain told her that he had confided to colleagues how attractive she was and invited her to his corporate apartment outside work.
His actions "were inappropriate, and it made me feel uncomfortable," she said.
The AP confirmed that the employee worked at the restaurant association with Cain during the period in question, that she has no party affiliation in her voter registration in the past decade and is not identified as a donor in federal campaigns or local political campaigns. Records show she was registered as a Democrat at one point previously.
Asked for comment about the accusations, including the most recent, Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon said, "Mr. Cain has said over the past two days at public events that we could see other baseless allegations made against him as this appalling smear campaign continues." Gordon added, "He has never acted in the way alleged by inside-the-Beltway media, and his distinguished record over 40 years spent climbing the corporate ladder speaks for itself."
Later campaign manager Mark Block alleged that Texas Gov. Perry's campaign was behind the original stories on the two women and demanded an apology.
Denying any involvement, Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan says the Texan's campaign learned of the allegations when Politico first published a story late Sunday evening.
Cain himself, in an interview with Forbes, said he believed a Perry consultant gave information about the allegations to Politico.
Cain said he outlined the allegations of a woman to the consultant, Curt Anderson, when Anderson was helping him on an earlier campaign.
Anderson said in a statement to AP: "I was one of several consultants on his Senate race in 2004 and was proud to help him. I never heard any of these allegations until I read about them in Politico, nor does anything I read in the press change my opinion that Herman is an upstanding man and a gentleman"
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