Cain changes tactics, takes no questions on harassment charges

A beleaguered Herman Cain declined to take questions about sexual harassment allegations Wednesday as a report surfaced a third woman considered filing a complaint over his behavior.

The woman, a former employee of the National Restaurant Association, told The Associated Press she considered filing a complaint over "what she considered aggressive and unwanted behavior" by Cain when he headed the trade group.

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She said Cain made "sexually suggestive remarks or gestures" to her about the same time her co-workers settled their claims against him, according to the story.

The woman, whom the AP did not identify, offered new details about the controversy. The two first-reported accusers are bound by confidentiality agreements in their settlements.

She told the AP "Cain told her he had confided to colleagues how attractive she was and invited her to his corporate apartment outside work."

Cain's presidential campaign did not comment for the latest story.

His unwillingness to address the media stands in marked contrast with the first two days of the week, as his campaign tried to address head-on allegations he behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner to two women while he headed the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.

The former Godfather's Pizza CEO had done multiple media interviews Monday and Tuesday about the allegations, but a steady stream of contradictions and revelations — paired with accusations that Cain might have violated the terms of the settlement agreements by discussing the issue — seem to have discouraged the campaign from further comment.

Still, the candidate seemed defiant, keeping to his scheduled appearances and telling the assembled crowds — all of which included a substantial number of reporters — that they were encouraged to laugh or applaud at his speeches.

"There is a force here much greater than those that would try to destroy me," he told a technology forum. "And that force is called the voice of the people."

The closest Cain came to addressing another twist in the controversy was on Fox News Tuesday evening. The Washington Post reported that one of Cain's accusers asked to be released from a confidentially agreement with the restaurant association so she could discuss it publicly.

"I can't answer that now … because there are legal implications," Cain said. "If the Restaurant Association waives that — I just found out about this today. There are legal implications associated with that that I'm not totally familiar with yet. So, I can't give you a definitive answer on that until we consult with our legal attorneys and also talk to, you know, some others. We can't answer that right now. It's too soon," he said.

Meanwhile, Joel Bennett, an attorney for one of the women, told CBS’s "The Early Show" on Wednesday that his client hasn’t spoken publicly because of the confidentiality agreement, but that Cain’s comments might have cleared a path.

“There was more than one incident that my client received sexual harassment,” Bennett said. “She would like to speak out for the record, only because Mr. Cain has stated that he didn’t sexually harass anyone, that there wasn’t any substance to the allegations, and basically made it look like she was some type of frivolous claimant looking for money.”

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), who had defended Cain the day before, said Wednesday the candidate should let the public know all the facts surrounding the sexual harassment allegations "as quickly as possible" so his campaign can move forward and focus on policy issues.

"Let's get all the facts out on the table. For any campaign, any candidate, any public official for that matter. If there's some controversy, you want to get all the facts out, all the cards on the table face up as quickly as you can," Barbour said on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown."

Cain was at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon to speak at an event organized by the Congressional Health Care Caucus. But he left without taking questions from the throng of assembled reporters.


"Don't bother asking me all these other questions that you all are curious about, OK? Don't even bother," Cain said while exiting.

Security guards quickly ushered the Republican presidential candidate through the hallways of the Rayburn House Office Building, at one point running into a security detail for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The men passed without exchanging words, although Geithner appeared amused by the media throng.

Before arriving at the Capitol, Cain spoke at a meeting of healthcare professionals at a hotel in Alexandria, Va. That event was originally scheduled to include a press conference, but the candidate only gave a short public statement before departing through a back entrance.

As Cain pushed through a mass of reporters to enter the meeting in Alexandria, the candidate appeared clearly agitated by the assembled crowd. He told reporters he would not answer questions on topics other than healthcare, and, while pushing through the crowd, joked, "What part of ‘no’ don’t some people understand?"

The New York Times reported a news photographer took "a hard blow to the face" as hotel security and campaign staff ushered Cain through the hotel.

The scene was similar at an 8 a.m. meeting with D.C.-area technology contractors in Falls Church, Va., where organizers told members of the press that they were barred from asking Cain questions after his prepared remarks. There, Cain at least made reference to the brewing situation, saying that campaigns traditionally go through different stages.

"The first phase is they ignore you, and they ignored us for the first six months of this year. Second phase is they ridicule you and third phase is they try to destroy you," Cain said. "We got a little bit of that this week."

Cain also reiterated suspicions that the allegations were politically motivated.

"There are factions trying to destroy me personally, as well as this campaign," he said.


—This story was updated at 4:11 p.m.

Sam Baker, Jonathan Easley and Geneva Sands-Sadowitz contributed.

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