As expected, the Herman Cain sex scandal only got more confusing today as he went on a media campaign to address the Politico report that two women accused him of sexual harassment when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the late '90s. Cain proclaimed his innocence to various news outlets, but his story changed throughout the day. He ended with a sit down interview on Greta Van Susteren's show in which he called the allegations "baseless," but many questions were left unanswered. On the plus side, Cain said "I don't recall" so frequently that it brought up some welcome Clinton-era nostalgia.
Earlier today, Jonathan Martin, the Politico reporter who co-wrote the original report, said he wouldn't get into the details of the allegations, but they include "both verbal and physical gestures," and Cain possibly inviting a woman up to his hotel room. This morning Cain called the story a "witch hunt," then went on to alter his story slightly in every subsequent media appearance. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo helpful put together this timeline:
1. Politico allegations are false. Story is crap.
2. Yes, there were allegations. But they were false.
3. Yes there were allegations that were false and I don't know what money was paid.
4. I don't know whether money was paid. And it would be wrong for me to find out whether money was paid because it's confidential.
5. There was a in-depth investigation. And I was cleared. But I don't know anything about it.
6. Here's the gesture that led to my getting accused of harassment.
7. Okay, I remember some discussion of a settlement number.
On Fox News, Cain made it sound like Van Susteren was asking him remember why his two best friends wouldn't sit at the lunch table together in fall semester of junior year. He remembered some details about the first woman who accused him of sexual harassment, including who her boss was and where her office was located, yet couldn't recall her name and was hazy on why she filed a complaint against him. Cain said he let his general counsel handle the incident and made it sound like he didn't pay much attention to the case after that. I mean, why would you follow a case that could lead to your personal and professional ruin that closely?
Cain did reenact the gesture that the woman found offensive, though that didn't make much sense either. He says he just put his hand up to his chin and said, "you're the same height as my wife," and somehow the first woman interpreted that as sexual harassment. As for the second woman, Cain does remember her name, but he says he didn't engage in any inappropriate behavior with her and he doesn't believe she made a formal complaint.
In the second half of the interview, Van Susteren tried to figure out if perhaps Cain is prone to buffoonish statements that ladies might misconstrue as being sexually suggestive. He said he might tell a lady her new hairdo is "becoming," but making clumsy remarks isn't his style. However, his weird joke about liking flowers in response to a question about whether he has a roaming eye suggests that might be a possibility.
Noting that in sex scandals we usually see dozens of people come out of the woodwork right after a politician denies he's ever even had sexy thoughts, Van Susteren asked if there's any chance we'll be hearing more sexual harassment charges involving Cain. He replied that it's impossible, as he's never behaved inappropriately. Then he added a preemptive denial if any more ladies should come forward, saying, "Is it possible that someone is going to make something up, yes, but is it going to be credible in terms of there was an actual sexual harassment case filed no, because we would have known about it" — even though it seems like there are several important facts about his life that he just doesn't remember.
Politico's Martin: "We're Just Not Going To Get Into The Details Of Exactly What Happened" [Real Clear Politics]
Cain Timeline (Work in Progress) [Talking Points Memo]