WASHINGTON — An Atlanta businesswoman claimed she had a 13-year affair with Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, whose campaign has already been hurt by a rash of sexual harassment allegations.
Cain, a former pizza company executive who has faded back in the pack of Republicans seeking to take on President Barack Obama in November 2012, denied the allegations preemptively, shortly before the news broke.
“It was pretty simple,” Ginger White told Atlanta’s Fox 5 television. “It wasn’t complicated. I was aware that he was married. And I was also aware I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship.”
White said she met Cain in the late 1990s in Kentucky, while he was serving as president of the National Restaurant Association.
The affair began at that time, she claimed. Cain lavished her with gifts and they stayed together at a luxury hotel in Atlanta, she said, emphasizing that he had never mistreated her in any way.
The physical relationship ended just eight months ago, shortly before he declared his candidacy, but the two remained in phone contact, White said.
“He made it very intriguing,” White said. “It was fun. It was something that took me away from my humdrum life at the time. And it was exciting.”
The TV station said White offered her cell phone bills as proof of their relationship. She did appear to have Cain’s number in her phone, but he told the station he had been “trying to help her financially.”
On CNN shortly before the Fox broadcast, Cain defiantly denied the allegations.
“This individual is going to accuse me of an affair for an extended period of time,” Cain said, vehemently denying any sex was involved. “It is someone that I know who is an acquaintance that I thought was a friend.”
“I did not have an affair,” Cain said, insisting he had no plans to quit the White House race.
“Not as long as my wife is behind me and as long as my wife believes I should stay in this race, I’m staying in this race,” he said, adding that he had spoken to his wife about the allegations.
Cain also faces sexual harassment accusations from four women — two of them who came forward in public. He has denied all impropriety.
“I will not be deterred by false, anonymous, incorrect accusations,” Cain said earlier this month.
His campaign also faltered when he struggled to respond to a basic question about Libya and appeared not to know that China had nuclear weapons, calling into question his presidential credentials.
Cain told CNN on Monday that he would forge ahead and shrugged off the latest accusations by saying: “Here we go again.”
White said she decided to come forward because she was upset at the way Cain had “demonized” the women accusing him of sexual harassment.
“I wanted to give my side, before it was thrown out there and made out to be something filthy,” White said.
“I didn’t want to do this, but it was something I felt at the end of the day was the right thing to do.”
Cain’s attorney Lin Wood sought to downplay the affair claim. “This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace — this is not an accusation of an assault — which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate,” Wood said.
“Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults — a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public,” he said.
“No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public’s right to know and the media’s right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one’s bedroom door.”
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