This is turning into a very scary Halloween for the Herman Cain campaign. Just as the Republican presidential candidate is gaining traction - and hiring campaign staff in key states like Florida - Cain is now confronted with accusations of sexual harassment.
Politico dropped this bombshell on Cain and in what appears to be a thorough report on accusations made, and financial settlements obtained, by two women who complained about sexual harassment while Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association.
The Politico story is required reading if you want to understand what all the fuss is about.
So far, Cain's handling of the questions has been dismal. As of this writing, Cain has remained evasive, defensive and unresponsive to the specific questions being asked.
That is a very dumb approach.
This is not going away. And the longer he delays in dealing forthrightly with the issue the deeper the problem is going to get.
INSTANT UPATE: On Fox News a few minutes ago, Cain said about the Politico story:
"I’ve never sexually harassed anyone and yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association. I say falsely because it turned out after the investigation to be baseless. …It is totally baseless and totally false. Never have I committed any sort of sexual harassment.”
He added: "If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it and I hope it wasn't for much. If there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers at the restaurant association."
UPDATE NUMBER 2 - Cain speaks at National Press Club:
"Number one, in all of my over 40 years of business experience ... I have never sexually harassed anyone. Number two, while at the restaurant association, I was accused of sexual harassment. Falsely accused, I might add.
I was falsely accused of sexual harassment, and when the charges were brought, as the leader of the organization, I recused myself and allowed my general counsel and human resource officer to handle it."
UPDATE NUMBER 3 - See Cain video from NPC:
Perhaps. But even with his remarks to Fox News, this is still a dumb approach.
Cain's remarks leave questions:
Why did Cain not make the same "baseless and totally false" statement to Politico?
Why would Cain, as head of the National Restaurant Association, be unaware of a settlement involving him? (See Update 2 above).
Why did the National Restaurant Association settle?
This is one of those campaign moments that drive staff nuts. They are left wondering - what else did Herman forget to mention? And what happens if one or more women suddenly go public?
We've seen this play before. Bill Clinton anyone?
Cain's rapid rise since the Florida straw poll has placed him under intense scrutiny. That is a good thing for candidates.
Now, Cain needs to put these questions about sexual harassment behind him by telling the truth, and nothing but the truth, as quickly as possible.
Today would be good.