THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Republican presidential contender Herman Cain on Saturday vowed to answer no more questions about decade-old sexual harassment allegations and blamed journalists for the claims that have dogged his campaign.
Growing agitated with reporters after a one-on-one debate with rival Newt Gingrich, the former business executive suggested the reporters who asked questions about the allegations were unethical. Asked if he planned to never answer questions about the incidents, he was certain.
“You got it,” he snapped, even as the allegations leave plenty of doubts about Cain’s candidacy.
A lawyer for one of Cain’s accusers said Friday that his client had filed a complaint “in good faith” against Cain in the 1990s for “several instances of sexual harassment” and had received a financial settlement.
Attorney Joel Bennett suggested Cain wasn’t telling the truth in his repeated denials of the incidents that allegedly took place while the Georgia businessman headed the National Restaurant Association.
Cain repeatedly has denied ever sexually harassing anyone, and his campaign said it was “looking to put this issue behind us.” Advisers had hoped Saturday night’s debate here near Houston would help do that.
Tea party organizers explicitly limited the discussion to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Gingrich, however, gave Cain an opportunity to address the allegations with an open-ended question about what has surprised him about running for president.
Cain didn’t hesitate: “The nitpickiness of the media,” he said.
“It is the actions and behavior of the media that have been the biggest surprise,” he said, his voice rising.
“There are too many people in the media who are downright dishonest. … They do a disservice to the American people,” Cain said, bringing the room to its feet.
A Washington Post-ABC News survey taken after the allegations emerged last Sunday showed Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney running almost even atop the field, with most Republicans dismissing the harassment allegations. Seven in 10 Republicans say reports of the allegations don’t matter when it comes to picking a candidate.