Herman Cain, whose status as a GOP presidential front-runner had already been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment, denied Monday that he’d had a 13-year, consensual affair with an Atlanta businesswoman.
Ginger White told Atlanta local news station WAGA-TV that she had a sexual relationship with Cain that began in the late 1990s when he was president of the National Restaurant Assn. The affair ended shortly before he jumped into the presidential race this year, she said, but their friendship had continued.
Before White’s allegations had even aired, Cain adamantly denied them in his own interview on CNN. White, he said, is “someone that I know, who is an acquaintance who I thought was a friend.”
White’s account was starkly at odds with Cain’s. “It was pretty simple,” she told WAGA-TV. “It wasn’t complicated. I was aware that he was married. And I was also aware that I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship.”
According to a report on the station’s website, White said she came forward because someone who knew her had contacted various media outlets about the affair. “I wanted to give my side before it was thrown out there and made out to be something filthy,” she told WAGA-TV reporter Dale Russell.
Though White said her relationship with Cain was consensual, she said she has been concerned by Cain’s treatment of women who in recent weeks have claimed to have been sexually harassed by him when he headed the restaurant lobby group from 1996 to 1999. “It bothered me that they were being demonized, sort of,” she said.
White was described by the station as a single mother who settled a sexual harassment claim against an employer in 2001 and declared bankruptcy 23 years ago. She said she began a relationship with Cain in the late 1990s in Louisville, Ky., where Cain had a speaking engagement.
Cain invited her to his hotel room after they had drinks, she claimed, then told her, “I’d like to see you again,” and invited her to Palm Springs. She said Cain flew her to cities where he was speaking and lavished her with gifts, including inscribed copies of his motivational books.
White produced her cellphone bills, which included 61 calls or text messages to what she said was Cain’s personal cellphone, with the most recent taking place in September. The TV station texted the number and Cain returned the call. He said he knew White, who had his number because he was “trying to help her financially,” according to the station’s report.
Cain, who told CNN his first reaction to the allegations was “Here we go again,” said he was worried about the effects on his wife and family. “I can take the lumps,” he said. “I expected this stuff when I made the decision to run for president. … My wife and my family, that’s my No. 1 concern.”
Less than a month ago, news surfaced that Cain had been accused of sexual harassment by at least two women who worked for him at the restaurant group. They both received confidential settlements, which Cain’s attorney, Lin Wood, dismissed as “nuisance” payments.
A third woman, Sharon Bialek, claimed Cain sexually groped her in a car in 1997, when she met him in Washington to ask for help getting a job. Cain has said that he does not remember Bialek and that the other women’s claims were concocted.
In a statement sent to WAGA-TV, Cain’s attorney said White’s allegations “appear to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults, a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public.”
Wood said Cain had “no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so.” About the same time the TV station posted Wood’s statement, Cain was on CNN, denying an affair.
Cain acknowledged falling in the polls in the last few weeks, following the harassment allegations and a much-mocked interview stumble on the subject of Libya. But he said he had no plans to leave the race.
“As long as my wife believes I should stay in this race, I’m staying in this race, because I am sick and tired of the hurt and harm that somebody out there is doing to my family with these baseless charges,” he said.