The window in the suite on the 15th floor of the Paramount Hotel looked out over a billboard advertisement for Jesus Christ Superstar, and against the wall, CNN carried the live announcement of Rick Santorum abandoning his presidential bid.
When Herman Cain walked in a few moments after the press conference ended, and after spending another few long moments fiddling with the suite’s air conditioner—“Too much blowing air gives me a cold, my sinuses and stuff”—he immediately turned to his own decision to drop out of the race last December.
“In my case, all of the spinning and respinning of those false accusations was hurting my family,” he said, referring to stories late last year that two women at the National Restaurant Association accused him of sexual harassment during his tenure there. Two other women also came forward with complaints about Mr. Cain’s behavior and now, five months later, the allegations clearly still rankle.
“The major, mainstream media outlets did a terrible job of being fair, relative to false accusations. What part of ‘false accusations’ don’t they understand!” he said slamming his hand against the table. “Because some of the mainstream media outlets started to present the allegations as if they were true and that totally Was. Not. Fair.
“And I don’t buy this crap about ‘Well, that goes with the territory if you’re running for president.’ I mean, I thought there was such as thing as journalistic ethics.”
The stories originally broke on Politico, which by Mr. Cain’s count wrote 722 stories about the harassment claims in a little over a month.
“Why not go home and do some due diligence and find out about these ‘alleged accusers’? I didn’t see one story about the fact that the third person—the Ginger White—was in the middle of a lawsuit with a business partner. Why? Because she lied. Where was the investigative reporting on that?”
Mr. Cain proceeded to walk The Transom through the allegations that were adjudicated by the restaurant association, saying that even though the accusers received a payout, “it wasn’t a settlement. It was a severance.”
“Where was the media in getting that terminology right?” he continued. “They keep talking about settlement, settlement, settlement! I’m not mad at you, I just get pissed off at the mischaracterization of this. It was a severance payout.”
Until the accusations broke, Mr. Cain sincerely believed that he was going to be next president of the United States.
“I was in my office and my assistant, Lisa-Lisa …”
Here he digressed, to clarify his unusual workplace nickname policy: “I have a lot of people on my staff who have double names, because I had too many Lisas. So, the first person that I hired, she’s Lisa. The second Lisa is Lisa-Lisa. I got a Chris, and I got a Chris-Chris. I don’t have a Kathy-Kathy yet, because I only have one Kathy.”
Mr. Cain’s press secretary, Kathy Hoekstra, sitting nearby, piped up at this point, “And you never will!” which allowed Mr. Cain to pick up the thread.
“And so Lisa-Lisa says, ‘Have you seen this?’ It was a new Zogby poll—which is one of the more reputable national polls—and I was at the top of poll, of all the presidential candidates. I literally had to go into my office and sit down and pray. This was ‘We no longer running to shake things up.’ This was ‘You: come down to the front row.’”
All that ended though when the allegations surfaced, and Mr. Cain was forced to give up his seat in the front row. He says that he thinks now most voters have come down on his version of events, but he doesn’t sound much like somebody interested in running again.
“It was a lot of fun, until they started the character assassination. It was great. I loved it. I loved the debates. I loved the campaign, and I loved the people.
“But what I didn’t like was the unfairness of the criticisms because of the false accusations. False accusations,” he continued. “Make sure you put the word ‘false’ in front of it whenever you mention it, because they were.”
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