Unfortunately this seems like the type of denial that may raise more questions than answers. Cain just told Fox News unequivocally that he has “never sexually harassed anyone,” but acknowledged that he was once accused of it. He also said that he was unaware of any financial settlement the National Restaurant Association might have reached with his accusers, but said it might have taken place without his knowledge.
Cain’s story would certainly explain why his campaign has been caught completely flat-footed by the bombshell. But there are also indications that he was fully aware the case was being handled by the association’s general counsel – which seems like it would imply a settlement – in the Politico story:
Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told POLITICO the candidate indicated to campaign officials that he was “vaguely familiar” with the charges and that the restaurant association’s general counsel had resolved the matter.
Proving sexual harassment would be almost impossible, especially considering the non disclosure agreements reportedly signed by Cain’s accusers. But if it turns out that Cain did know about the settlement, that could be a big problem for him.
It seems unlikely that an association would settle charges without talking to the accused party, especially one who also happened to be the head of the organization. But is it impossible? Maybe it could have been handed off to the general counsel and taken care of without Cain’s direct involvement, but again … it would be a strange way to handle it. Cain has also left himself no wiggle-room on the issue. If anything turns up — legal documents, letters, emails, etc. — that show he was aware of the settlement, his credibility is going to be shot. Though the fact that he kept his job after the accusations does gives credence to his argument that the allegations were baseless.
So far, Cain has probably raised enough doubt about this to satisfy his supporters. Now the burden is on Politico and other news outlets to cough up the evidence.