Cain Adviser Accepts Perry Aide's Denial Of Sexual Harassment Story Leak [UPDATE]
WASHINGTON -- Herman Cain's chief of staff said on Thursday that he accepted the explanation of a Rick Perry adviser who denied charges from the Cain camp that he leaked allegations of sexual harassment by Cain to the media.
"Until we get all the facts, I'm just gonna say that we accept what Mr. Anderson has said and we want to move on with the campaign," top Cain campaign adviser Mark Block said in a Fox News interview.
Block did not, however, fully withdraw his accusation against Perry adviser Curt Anderson.
"I'm going to do the same thing Anderson has done: move on, talk about issues and get off of this 'silliness,' as he called it, and let's get on with the campaign," Block said.
But Block immediately added, "I will stand behind what we said yesterday," referring to accusations against Anderson first made by Cain himself and then by Block himself. Block added that he was "thrilled that Mr. Anderson said that it didn't come from him."
Anderson, who worked on Herman Cain's unsuccessful 2004 Senate run, said on Thursday morning that he could not have been the source of the leak because he did not know about the allegations against the candidate.
"I didn't know anything about this, so it's hard to leak something you don't know anything about," Anderson said on CNN.
Cain has said he told Anderson about the allegations during the 2004 campaign when Anderson was advising him.
On Wednesday, the slugfest between Herman Cain and Rick Perry's presidential campaigns continued into the night.
Cain's campaign manager renewed charges that Perry's team leaked a story about allegations of sexual harassment made against Cain in the 1990s.
"The American people deserve better than these underhanded tactics by the Perry campaign. And Rick Perry owes Mr. Cain's family an apology. A desperate candidate is trying to steal the Republican nomination away from Mr. Cain," Cain's chief of staff Mark Block wrote in a memo to reporters.
But Block gave himself a bit of wiggle room by hedging on the claim.
The Perry campaign "almost certainly provided" the original story to Politico, Block wrote.
In a Fox News interview on Wednesday afternoon, Block had said he was "absolutely" accusing Perry's campaign of leaking the story to Politico, and said "the actions of the Perry campaign are despicable."
Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and of the National Restaurant Association, himself originally made the charge of leaking the story against Perry adviser Curt Anderson -- who worked on Cain's unsuccessful 2004 Senate campaign and who knew about the allegations then, according to Cain -- in an interview with Forbes Magazine earlier in the day.
The Perry campaign denied the charge immediately Wednesday, as did Anderson in a written statement. Late in the evening the Texas governor's campaign communications director, Ray Sullivan, sent out a new statement to reporters accusing Cain and Block of "reckless and false" behavior.
"For a candidate and campaign claiming to be victims of unfounded and unproven accusations, they are awfully quick to hurl unfounded accusations themselves. Contrary to the Cain campaign's false accusations, there is not one shred of evidence that any member of the Perry campaign had anything to do with the recent stories regarding Herman Cain -- because it isn't true. We first learned of the Cain accusations when we read the story in the news," Sullivan said.
"And while hurling unfounded accusations may serve as a temporary distraction from Mr Cain's mounting troubles, we hope we can all get on with the serious business of selecting the best candidate to defeat Barack Obama," he said.
But the Perry campaign also engaged in finger-pointing of its own. Sullivan told CBS News that Mitt Romney's campaign might have been responsible for the leak.
"I wouldn't put it past them," Sullivan said, adding that the NRA "is a big Romney donor."
"There are much closer connections between the Restaurant Association, Cain and the Romney camp than there are with us," he said.
The Romney campaign denied the charge. And Sullivan's claim flies in the face of the political calculus. As long as Cain remains near the top of the polls, it is hard for Perry to regain lost ground and close on Romney. Cain's success benefits Romney by keeping Perry down.
Perry himself spoke with conservative blogger Erick Erickson on Wednesday night. Erickson tweeted that Perry gave him a "firm denial of campaign involvement" and was "disappointed in this blame game."
"[He] says he likes Herman Cain a lot," Erickson wrote.
In his Fox News interview with Bret Baier, Block also said Politico had reported "something that wasn't true." But Block's claim is incorrect. The original Politico story reported that Cain had been accused by two women of sexual harassment during his time at the NRA, and that both women had reached settlements with the NRA. Those facts have been verified by other news outlets, though the women have remained nameless under limitations put in place by nondisclosure agreements that were part of their settlements.
One of the two accusers had considered going public with her accusations against Cain, but her attorney told The New York Times Wednesday evening that she would not. However, the attorney, Joel P. Bennett, said that he hoped to release a statement on Thursday clarifying that her version of events is different than what Cain so far has alleged. Cain has characterized the interaction in question as one in which he said the woman was about the same height as his wife, while standing close to the woman.
A third woman, also anonymous, came forward on Wednesday to tell the Associated Press that she had considered filing a claim against Cain for behavior she found inappropriate during her time working at the NRA, including an invitation to his apartment.
And in another bizarre twist, a conservative Iowa radio talk show host accused Cain of exhibiting "awkward if not inappropriate" behavior toward members of his staff.
Nonetheless, Block said the Cain campaign had "a second consecutive record-breaking fundraising day on Tuesday, Nov. 1, surpassing Monday's new record." Block said that the campaign took in $250,000 on Monday, but did not say how much was raised Tuesday.