Published November 02, 2011
Herman Cain's top aide accused Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign of being behind the recent stories about sexual harassment allegations against Cain from the 1990s that have rocked the former pizza company executive’s presidential campaign.
"This is one of the actions in America that is the reason why people don't get involved in politics," Mark Block, Cain's campaign chief of staff, said in an exclusive interview with Fox News' "Special Report." "The actions of the Perry campaign are despicable."
"Rick Perry and his campaign owe Herman Cain and his family an apology," Block added.
Cain has been grappling with the allegations since Politico first reported Sunday night that at least two women who worked for the National Restaurant Association when Cain was its head had received financial settlements after they complained about his behavior.
The Cain campaign suggests the source for that story was longtime GOP consultant Curt Anderson, who worked for Cain's failed 2004 U.S. Senate bid and had been debriefed on the harassment allegations by Cain himself. Anderson now works for Perry.
And Chris Wilson, a former pollster for the restaurant association, said Wednesday he witnessed Cain's alleged inappropriate behavior. He's now involved with a pro-Perry super political action committee.
But both men deny leaking the story.
"I've known Herman Cain for about seven years. I was one of several consultants on his Senate race in 2004 and was proud to help him," Anderson said. "I'd never heard any of these allegations until I read them in Politico, nor does anything I read in the press change my opinion that Herman is an upstanding man and a gentleman."
"I have great respect for Herman and his character and I would never speak ill of him, on the record or off the record," he added. "That's true today and it's not going to change."
The Perry campaign also disavowed any connection to the story, calling Block's charge "reckless and false."
"For a candidate and campaign that claim to be the victims of unfounded and unproven accusations, they are awfully quick to hurl unfounded accusations themselves," Perry campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan said in email. "Contrary to the Cain campaign's false accusations, there is not one shred of evidence that any member of the Perry team had anything to do with the recent stories regarding Herman Cain -- because it isn't true."
Sullivan also noted that backers of Mitt Romney's campaign are connected to the National Restaurant Association, though the Romney campaign responded simply that any suggestion it pushed the Cain story is "not true."
Block said not only does the Perry campaign owe Cain an apology, but so does Politico.
"Politico won't release any documentation or even admit they spoke to these two women," he said. "Why? Because they have nothing and cited unnamed sources."
Earlier Wednesday, a third woman said she considered filing a workplace complaint against Cain over what she viewed as aggressive and unwanted behavior, including a private invitation to his corporate apartment.
But she said she did not file one because she began having fewer interactions with Cain. Afterward, she learned that a co-worker had already done so. She said she would have had to file if they hadn't.
Meanwhile, the attorney for one of two women who apparently received financial settlements said Wednesday that he will formally request his client be allowed to speak publicly about the case.
Attorney Joel Bennett told Fox Business Network that he will file his request on Thursday before the National Restaurant Association asking that his client be removed from a confidentiality agreement attached to the settlement.
"We will send a formal letter tomorrow to the Restaurant Association, and we will hopefully be able to then put out a statement," Bennett said in an interview.
He said Cain's statements, in which he said he was "falsely accused" and that he never sexually harassed anyone, should open the door for his client to be able to speak about the case.
Bennett said he's taking the request straight to the association, and that it "does not have to go to a judge."
The National Restaurant Association is not saying much about the case. An association spokeswoman released a statement Wednesday saying Bennett touched base with the association that morning.
"An association representative promptly returned his call and asked Mr. Bennett to contact the Association's outside counsel. Mr. Bennett indicated that he would do so tomorrow, after he met with his client," spokeswoman Sue Hensley said in the statement.
According to a source quoted by The Associated Press, the woman in question is still reluctant about coming forward despite her lawyer's comments.
It's unclear how much the woman Bennett represents received in the settlement. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the other woman received $35,000, representing a year's salary.