Cain tells aides he is reassessing his campaign

By Ray Henry

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 29 2011 8:16 p.m. MST

While Cain avoided reporters after the speech, he would hardly be able to escape them at an event from which he withdrew earlier in the day: a party in New York on Sunday to meet with some of the city's top journalists including NBC's Matt Lauer and ABC's Barbara Walters. Cindy Adams, the New York Post columnist hosting the dinner, told the AP she had received a call Tuesday from Cain adviser John Coale saying Cain had decided not to attend. Coale declined to comment.

Still, Cain was what one participant described as calm and deliberate as he addressed his staff on the conference call.

The participant, Florida state Rep. Scott Plakon, one of four chairmen for Cain's Florida campaign, said he wanted to see more evidence from the accuser.

"If it is true that he didn't do this, I think he should fight and kick and scratch and win," Plakon said.

But if Cain did have the affair, Plakon said, it would be unacceptable to Republican voters.

"That would be very problematic," he said. "There's the affair itself and then there's the truthful factor. He's been so outspoken in these denials."

After the conference call, Cain attorney Lin Wood told the AP: "Any report that Mr. Cain has decided to withdraw his candidacy is inaccurate."

"I think they are assessing the situation, just as I would expect the campaign to do or any prudent business person to do," said Wood. He added that he would hate to see what he described as false accusations drive Cain out of the race for the presidency.

On Monday, Ginger White said in an interview with Fox 5 Atlanta that her affair with Cain ended not long before the former businessman from Georgia announced his candidacy for the White House.

"It was fun," said White, 46, as she described Cain buying her plane tickets for a rendezvous in Palm Springs, Calif. "It was something that took me away from my sort of humdrum life at the time. And it was exciting."

Cain went on television to flatly deny White's claims even before the report aired.

"I didn't do anything wrong," he said then. On Tuesday, he told his staff "I deny those charges, unequivocally," and went on to say he had only helped White financially "because she was out of work and destitute, desperate."

Seemingly out of step with Cain's denials, his lawyer issued a statement Monday that included no such denial of the affair and suggested that the media — and the public — had no business snooping into the details of consensual conduct between adults.

Cain's response was faster and more deliberate than he had managed when it was reported that three women alleged he had sexually harassed or groped them when he was the president of the National Restaurant Association in the mid- to late 1990s. The trade group paid settlements to two women who had worked there.

As some conservative Republicans sought an alternative to Mitt Romney, Cain surged in the polls while pushing his 9-9-9 tax plan and providing tough criticism of President Barack Obama during televised debates.

But as the harassment allegations surfaced, Cain stumbled in explaining his views about U.S. policy toward Libya and other foreign policy issues, creating an opening for rival Newt Gingrich to assert himself as a more reliable, seasoned politician to challenge Romney and even Obama. Cain fell in the polls and Gingrich began to rise.

In an email sent Tuesday to his supporters, Cain called the allegations of the affair "a fabricated, unsubstantiated story." He accused White of abusing their friendship.

"I am writing you today to assure you that this woman's story is completely false," Cain said in the email. "I do know Ms. White. I have helped her financially at times over the past few years, just as I have helped many friends and acquaintances throughout the years. I thought Ms. White was a friend in need of a supportive hand to better her life."

In her TV interview, White said she decided to come forward after seeing Cain attack his other accusers in an appearance on television.

Associated Press writers Kathy Barks Hoffman in Hillsdale, Mich., Beth Fouhy in New York, Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, Steve Peoples in Amherst, N.H., Greg Bluestein in Dunwoody, Ga., and researcher Barbara Sambriski in New York contributed to this report.

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