Herman Cain denounces “witch hunt,” denies sex harassment

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Republican Herman Cain  denounced sexual harassment accusations from the 1990s as a  “witch hunt” today and broke into a gospel song to deflect  what has become the toughest challenge of his U.S. presidential  campaign.
Cain acknowledged he was accused of sexual harassment while  heading the National Restaurant Association but declared that  an internal investigation had cleared him of the allegations.
Politico’s website reported on Sunday that two women  employees had complained of sexually suggestive comments and  gestures by Cain at the association.
The report, which came as Cain is riding high in the polls,  could damage his surprisingly strong bid to be the Republican  challenger to Democratic President Barack Obama in the November  2012 election.
“This bull’s-eye on my back has gotten bigger,” Cain told  reporters at the National Press Club. “We have no idea the  source of this witch hunt, which is really what it is.”
Some experts said the allegations are trouble for Cain.
“The sexual harassment allegations will amount to the first  in a drip, drip, drip of negative information about him,” said  Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook  Political Report.
Cain appeared totally at ease in addressing the controversy  and even broke into a gospel song, singing a tune based on the  hymn, “Amazing Grace,” to demonstrate his Christian faith.
“I would be delighted to clear the air,” he said. “Number  One in all of my over 40 years of business experience, running  businesses and corporations, I have never sexually harassed  anyone.”
“Number Two, while at the restaurant association, I was  accused of sexual harassment, falsely accused I might add.”
Cain said when the allegations arose, he recused himself  and the firm’s general counselor and human resources official  conducted an investigation that concluded the charges “had no  basis.”
Politico reported the women complained to colleagues and  senior restaurant association officials that inappropriate  behaviour by Cain made them angry and uncomfortable.
The women ultimately left the trade group after signing  agreements that gave them payouts and barred them from talking  about their departures, the report said.
As for the charges of a financial settlement, Cain said he  was unaware of a settlement and if there had been one, “I hope  it wasn’t for much, because I didn’t do anything.”
The former pizza executive tried to stay on message and  move past the controversy. He spoke at length about his 9-9-9  tax plan and sought to clear the air over question marks  conservatives have about whether he truly opposes abortion.

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