WASHINGTON -- In her first national interview since her husband announced his bid for the presidency, Gloria Cain missed a crucial opportunity to wholeheartedly endorse and defend her husband, Herman Cain, as he faces multiple sexual harassment allegations and a faltering campaign.
Speaking with Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren in an interview that aired Monday night, Gloria Cain by turns came across as naively trusting, bitter, and unsure of her husband's candidacy.
Early in the interview Mrs. Cain said that the Politico story was her first exposure to the allegations. "That was my first knowing about it," she said. But moments later, she recalled that "years ago, I think, when he first mentioned something about ... there had been accusations of harassment, and I asked him if there was anything to it." She said her husband told her the accusations were "deemed not reliable," but then corrected herself and said "unfounded." For her, she said, "that was the end of it." She did not indicate whether she was aware at the time of the settlements paid to the accusers, and Van Susteren didn't ask.
"In the beginning I started thinking, 'could I have missed something?'" she said as the accusations grew in recent weeks, but she reasoned that "if I haven't seen parts of that person in 43 years, I don't think I'm that simple that I would miss something that significant." She said she stopped paying attention to news reports after "about a week and a half."
Of the third accuser, Sharon Bialek, Mrs. Cain said she watched the news conference held last week, because "I wanted to hear her specific allegations, and I thought, 'you weren't in the car with Herman.'" Bialek has said Cain was sexually aggressive in a parked car after she asked him for help getting a job, and on Monday her ex-boyfriend came forward to say that she told him of the incident when it happened in 1997.
Gloria Cain questioned Bialek's decision to come forward after so many years, and later said that "I know [Herman] has too much respect for women, he's too 'old school'" to have done the things Bialek alleges. Cain then cited her husband's opening of doors and walking on the outside of the sidewalk as examples of his respect for women.
In a startling admission, Gloria Cain said she never asked her husband about Bialek, she just "heard his news conference," in which he denied Bialek's allegations and said he had never met her and had no memory of the incident. "So no, I didn't ask him about that, and no, I'm not being naive," Mrs. Cain told Van Susteren.
She also stressed that her husband has an "outgoing" personality, and if his close relationships with colleagues and his "innocent comments" were interpreted as sexual harassment, then it was his accusers' "gutter mentality" that was to blame. "If your mind is going to that gutter mentality, they will always be able to try and put some type of gutter meaning on whatever you're saying," she said. She also admitted that "there have been troubles" in her marriage, but that she and her husband have never separated.
On the topic of Herman Cain's presidential aspirations, Mrs. Cain, a registered Democrat, gave an answer that can only be characterized as faint praise. Asked if her husband would make a good president, she paused. "I think he would," she said with apparent reservations in her voice. "I think he would try to make a difference."
Asked whether she is concerned about the intensely public life required of a first lady, Cain said, "sometimes I let myself go there, but then I try to pull myself back. Because I don't want to project too far in the future, because then I'd worry more." In response to a rapid succession of questions about whether she was "strong" and "tough," Cain seemed unsure. "Ummm, at times," she said, and "ummm, I can be."
"It's been exhausting" to be married to Herman Cain, she said, before recalling that during the first year after initially meeting her future husband, she wasn't interested in dating him. "He just talked all the time, and I did not like that!" she exclaimed. She said she eventually came came around after their first date, despite thinking at times that he was "egotistical."
Van Susteren's interview closed with a brief meeting with the entire family, including Herman Cain and the couple's children. "From our very first date, I didn't date anyone else, and neither did she," Herman Cain said. "We knew then."