Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain was in the hot seat on Monday night, answering questions about allegations of sexual harassment from the 1990s during an interview that aired on Fox News' "On the Record."
Politico first reported on the accusations in question from when the former Godfather's Pizza CEO was serving as head of the National Restaurant Association over a decade ago. The GOP contender, who previously denied any wrongdoing in the alleged incidents, maintained his innocence when pressed on the matter by Fox News host Greta van Susteren.
In coming to his own defense; however, Cain said that because he could not recollect certain incidents taking place, that doesn't mean they didn't occur.
Asked if he's ever seen a financial settlement paid to one of two women who accused him of sexual harassment, Cain said, "No. I don't recall signing it. Now, the fact that I say I don't recall signing it doesn't mean that I didn't sign it, but I simply don't recall if I signed it."
Cain was also presented with questions on the settlement issue during an interview on PBS' NewsHour that aired the same night. Below, an excerpt of the exchange:
JUDY WOODRUFF: And in terms of the settlement which was reached by the Restaurant Association, you as the CEO were not aware of that, or you were aware of that?
HERMAN CAIN: I was not. I was aware that an agreement was reached. The word "settlement" versus the word "agreement," you know, I'm not sure what they called it. I know that there was some sort of agreement, but because it ended up being minimal, they didn't have to bring it to me. My general counsel and the head of human resources had the authority to resolve this thing. So it wasn't one of those things where it got above a certain authority level and I had to sign it. If I did -- and I don't think I did -- I don't even remember signing it because it was minimal in terms of what the agreement was.
Earlier in the day, however, Cain denied being aware of any settlement related to the sexual allegations, a matter which was addressed in Politico's report. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. he also said, "I have never sexually harassed anyone and those accusations are totally false ... It was concluded, after a thorough investigation, that it had no basis."
During the Fox News interview, Cain pushed back against some of the details included in Politico's initial report. Asked if he's ever had an "inappropriate conversation with anyone" in a hotel room, he responded, "No." Here's an excerpt of the subsequent exchange that went down:
VAN SUSTEREN: There was one suggestion that someplace in Chicago, I think that, if I got this right, that you had had a conversation with someone. Is that not right?
CAIN: When we were at the restaurant show, I was constantly talking with different staff members about different issues. If I had a private conversation with her, I don't recall having a private conversation with her. But all of the conversations that I had, it could have been. But I don't recollect.
Asked about the alleged hotel room factor on PBS, Cain said, "That I absolutely do not recall. You know, I have no recollection of that."
The presidential hopeful was asked to explain how he understands what sexual harassment is on Fox News. "Do you sort of know where the line is where inappropriate and appropriate?" van Susteren asked.
Cain responded, "I believe I have a good sense for where you cross the line relative to sexual harassment. But you have to know the lady, the individual." Pointing to his career path he added, "Up to that point, not one accusation of sexual harassment, which meant that I did a pretty good job of knowing where to draw the line. I thought I had drawn the line and not infringed upon what was obviously perceived as sexual harassment on her part when I made that little gesture about her height, and I can't honestly remember what else was even in the accusation."
According to Cain, remarks he made about one of the women's height was at issue in her making sexual allegations against him. "One incident that I recall as the day has gone on," he explained, "She was in my office one day, and I made a gesture saying, Oh, and I was standing close to her. And I made a gesture, You're the same height as my wife, and brought my hand, didn't touch her, up to my chin and said, You're the same height of my wife because my wife comes up to my chin, my wife of 43 years."
The GOP hopeful suggested the remarks made the woman feel uncomfortable.
Asked if he has a "roaming eye," Cain told van Susteren, "I enjoy flowers, like everybody else." As for the way in which he believes he generally treats women he said, "The only thing that I could be guilty of saying in a group of men and women is paying a compliment to the woman" and explained, "So I would, you know, say that about, or I would, you know, pay a lady a compliment. If she changed her hair, you know, I might say something like, 'Oh, you changed your hairstyle. It's very becoming.' So I would make compliments to women in group settings like that, sure."
Asked if it's possible any additional sexual allegations from the past could come to light, Cain said, "To my knowledge, no." He continued, "Is it possible that someone is going to make something up? Yes. But is it going to be credible in terms of there was an actual sexual harassment case filed? No, because I would have known about it. If someone is going to step forward and say that I made some inappropriate comments or acted inappropriately that they could call sexual harassment, even though they didn't file a formal complaint, not to my knowledge."
Despite appearing a bit hazy on some of the details related to the past accusations, Cain said, "I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that there's no other credible [allegations] out there that could actually show up."
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