Herman Cain vehemently denied allegations of inappropriate behavior on Monday, telling Fox News that he was falsely accused while head of the National Restaurant Association more than a decade ago.
"I have never sexually harassed anyone," Cain said. "I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association -- and I say 'falsely' because it turned out, after the investigation, to be baseless."
The allegations stem from a Politico report that two women, who were subordinates to Cain at the time, accused him of inappropriate behavior and reportedly received five-figure payouts after signing an agreement with the trade association --- an agreement that also barred them from discussing the matter. Cain was the CEO of the association from 1996-1999.
But Cain said he didn’t even know of any deals in the case.
"If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it, and I hope it wasn't for much because nothing happened," he said. "So if there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers that worked for me at the association."
The report quotes anonymous sources and describes how the two women felt "angry and uncomfortable" with Cain's behavior, which they said included sexually suggestive conversations. Politico's Jonathan Martin, who co-wrote the article, told MSNBC on Monday morning that allegations also involved a woman being invited up to Cain's hotel room while at a conference. Martin said Politico has confirmed the identities of both women and has also seen documentation of the allegations.
"The incidents in question relate to personnel matters that allegedly took place nearly 15 years ago," a spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association told Fox News in a statement. "Consistent with our longstanding policy, we don't comment on personnel issues relating to current or former employees."
"There is nothing to this -- it is a smear campaign," Cain campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon told Fox News on Sunday night. "These are thinly sourced allegations."
Referencing polling that shows Cain has climbed to the top of the Republican heap -- most recently, a Des Moines Register poll over the weekend that shows Cain with 23 percent among a sample of Iowa Republican caucus-goers compared to 22 percent for Mitt Romney -- Gordon said the story was an “attempt to drag him down.”
“That is what it is,” Gordon said. "He deserves better.”
Cain said his campaign refused, until now, to comment on the allegations because they were based on anonymous sources, while the sources who went on the record for the Politico article supported Cain.
"We weren't going to go and chase anonymous sources," Cain said. "The people mentioned in that article were ones who would be aware of any misdoings, and they have attested to my character and my integrity."
The presidential candidate said that despite the media storm surrounding the issue, he plans to continue his campaign with full steam.
"Some people are going to be turned off by this cloud that someone wanted to put over my campaign, but a lot of people aren't going to be turned off," he said. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens."