The escalating controversy surrounding Herman Cain’s alleged sexual harassment of women in the 1990s has officially taken on a life of its own, turning the already absurd Republican presidential race into an all-out farce.
After two days of vague and inconsistent denials, the Cain camp finally went on offence yesterday — and things got pretty wild. Cain and his staff totally lost their cool, accusing Rick Perry’s campaign advisor of leaking the story and lying to America.
The attacks set off a circular firing squad among conservatives, as everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Donald Trump weighed in on the blame game.
Fed up with his bad week in Washington, Cain went into attack mode, accusing nameless political enemies of launching a smear campaign.
Clearly fed up with the sexual harassment controversy, Cain revealed his flair for the dramatic during an appearance in Washington Wednesday morning, telling an audience of tech executives that anonymous 'factions' are waging war against his campaign.
'There are factions that are trying to destroy me, personally as well as this campaign,' Cain said, according to CNN. 'But there is a force greater at work here that is much greater than those that would destroy me and destroy this campaign and this journey to the White House. And that force is called the voice of the people.'
Cain apparently had the wrong audience. His tirade was met with crickets, forcing Cain to remind the audience: 'Y'all are supposed to applaud.'
Which they did, eventually.
Then Cain TOTALLY lost it on a bunch of reporters in Virginia and his bodyguards started a melee that ended with a father and his kid being pushed up against a wall.
Just when the firestorm appeared to have reached its zenith, the AP came out with a report that a third woman who worked for the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s came forward to accuse Cain of 'inappropriate' and sexually suggestive behaviour. Unlike Cain's other accusers, the third woman did not file charges against him.
The employee described situations in which she said Cain told her he had confided to colleagues how attractive she was and invited her to his corporate apartment outside work. She spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she feared retaliation.
Cain's campaign denied the claims, saying it was just another baseless incident designed to hurt the campaign.
The counsel for the National Restaurant Association quickly became the most interesting job in Washington Wednesday, when a lawyer for one of Cain's two initial accusers filed a request for his client to be released from her confidentiality agreement so she could share her side of the story.
But by the end of the day, the woman had changed her mind and decided not to go public for fear of becoming 'another Anita Hill.' But her lawyer said he still planned on sending a proposed statement to the NRA that would explain that his client had a different version of the events than Cain, without providing any details of the incident.
Just when Cain thought things couldn't get any worse, Iowa conservative talk radio host Steve Deace came out of the woodwork with accusations that Cain made 'awkward' and 'inappropriate' remarks to two of Deace's female receptionists. He declined to go into further detail.
In an impromptu press conference Wednesday evening, Deace said Cain is 'compromised in his private life,' and pointed out that Cain's wife Gloria does not accompany him on the campaign trail.
An influential Christian conservative, Deace has been critical of Cain's presidential bid. And it appears Deace's comments were not a surprise to Cain's advisors -- senior strategist Mark Block actually alluded the accusations on Tuesday, a day before Deace went public.
Cain called Deace's allegations 'absolutely ridiculous.'
Cain went nuclear and accused Rick Perry's campaign of orchestrating the entire sexual harassment debacle.
The Cain campaign kicked off the blame game by accusing rival Perry's campaign of leaking the sexual harassment story in some kind of professional political hit job.
In an interview with Forbes magazine, Cain claimed that Curt Anderson, Perry's newly-hired media strategist who also worked on Cain's 2004 Senate bid, fed the story to Politico, adding that he had privately briefed Anderson on the harassment cases during the 2004 campaign.
'The fingerprints of the Rick Perry campaign' are all over the sexual harassment story, Cain added in a call with supporters Wednesday night. 'We now know and have been able to trace it back to the Perry campaign that stirred this up, in order to discredit me and slow us down.'
Anderson denied leaking the story, and said he only learned about the alleged harassment when Politico broke the story this week.
The Perry camp was up in arms — they denied leaking the story and suggested Mitt Romney might be the culprit
In the wake of Cain's allegations, Perry's media team went into overdrive, flatly denying that the Texas Governor's presidential campaign was behind the incendiary Cain story.
'That is false, patently untrue, no one at this campaign was involved in this story,' Perry communications director Ray Sullivan told CBS News. He then suggested Romney's campaign might be behind the leak, adding 'I wouldn't put it past them.'
Sullivan appears to have taken his cues from Rush Limbaugh, a well-known Romney critic, who said yesterday that it looks like Romney is behind the leak. Limbaugh noted on his radio show that Steven Anderson, Cain's successor at the NRA, is a big donor to Romney's presidential campaign.
In a telephone interview with Fox News, Trump said Cain is the target of an 'unfair witch hunt' and should consider taking action against the women who accused him of sexual harassment.
'I think it's a very ugly witch hunt and I think it's very unfair. You say, Oh, hello, darling, how are you? And you get sued because you've destroyed somebody's life. It's ridiculous. And I think it's very unfair to him. And unless there's something that we're not seeing -- meaning you, I, and everybody else -- I think it's a very unfair situation.'
He added that Cain's accusers 'probably do love their names splashed across the front pages. And frankly, I think that's not a good situation and I don't think it's a fair situation. And I think Herman should take very, very strong action, even if he has to bring a major lawsuit against the women.'
Gingrich, a 2012 presidential hopeful who has seen his fair share of sex scandals, had some words of wisdom for his Republican rival:
'My first advice is what he hasn't done, which is say nothing until you sit down with your lawyers and with the people who know the facts,' Gingrich told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. 'You thoroughly and completely understand them and you go through a period where everybody asks you -- in your team -- every possible negative question so you thoroughly understand what will happen.'
The Washington Times threw a curveball into the he-said-he-said blame game, with a thinly-sourced story accusing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel of leaking the Cain harassment story on behalf of the Obama reelection campaign.
According to a source who is friends with the Cain campaign, not only is the Rick Perry campaign involved but also the Mayor of Chicago and former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is likely involved with the sexual harassment accuser attacks. A friend of the Cain campaign believes a National Restaurant Association (NRA) employee out of the Chicago office leaked the story to the Perry campaign via information and influence from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.
Of course, Rahmbo's spokesman called the story 'baseless' and 'totally absurd.'
Mark Block, Herman Cain's now famous chief of staff, doubled down on the campaign's accusations against the Perry campaign, and demanded an apology from the Texas Governor.
'The actions of the Perry campaign are despicable,' Block told Bret Baier. 'Rick Perry and his campaign owe Herman Cain and his family an apology. Both the Rick Perry campaign and Politico did the wrong thing by reporting something that wasn't true from anonymous sources, and like I said, they owe Herman Cain and his family an apology.'
He added later: 'Rick Perry needs to apologise to Herman Cain and, quite frankly, to America.'
Cain ended his spectacularly bad day on a high note, going back to his base with a Tea Party town hall conference call hosted by none other than Joe the Plumber.
Cain dismissed the allegations as a 'smear campaign,' and reassured supporters that the harassment scandal would not hurt his surging presidential campaign.
'Herman Cain is in it to win it,' Cain concluded. 'And why is Herman Cain in it to win it? Because Herman Cain is inspired.'
Following the call, Cain's communications director JD Gordon announced the campaign has raised nearly $1 million in two days of record fundraising.
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