OTR Interviews

Extramarital Affair Allegation the Final Straw for Cain?

Will extramarital affair allegation prove catastrophic for wilting Cain campaign?

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 28, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: OK, tonight: Start guessing! No one knows who is going to be the Republican nominee, but tonight one candidate, Mr. Herman Cain, fights to hang onto his political future. An Atlanta woman comes forward with a politically explosive accusation. Says she had an affair with Mr. Cain for almost 14 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGER WHITE, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH HERMAN CAIN: I'm not proud. I didn't want to come out with this. I did not. It was pretty simple. It wasn't complicated. And I was aware that he was married, and I was also aware that I was involved in a very inappropriate situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Herman Cain responding tonight, saying in part, "I have spoken directly to the American people and have been 100 percent honest with them. My plan is to continue to spread my vision on how I would renew America and keep her safe. I will not fight false claims as it is not what America needs or wants."

So will that do? Will his response put the matter to rest, or is this political dynamite? "ABC World News" senior Washington editor Rick Klein joins us. So political dynamite, or will his statement put a lid on it?

RICK KLEIN, "ABC WORLD NEWS": This is not the end of this, unfortunately for Herman Cain. First of all, this is the latest in a series of women who have come out of the woodwork around Mr. Cain. That is difficult. It's hard to just chalk it all up to fabrications, as he is prone to do here.

And I think more importantly, this just keeps raising questions about him and the basics of his candidacy. Can he be trusted? Can Republican voters know that they're going to get a candidate that they can bring up against President Obama? Given all that's out there right now, he's got real credibility issues here. And I just think this is a latest in a series of stories that are just so difficult for a candidacy that's been fading over the last couple of weeks.

VAN SUSTEREN: But there's a legal difference between the first allegations, sexual harassment, some were anonymous, and this one with a woman who's come forward. This is not, quote, "illegal," but I guess...

KLEIN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... when you're in the position of trying to draw that distinction of (INAUDIBLE) to explain what the difference is, you're in deep water.

KLEIN: That's right. And because he's denied everything so far, it gets to questions of credibility. And I think we heard him tonight also outline for the first time a possible exit strategy from this campaign when he said, Look, I don't want to give in because that would be this whole political establishment winning here. But if it gets to the point where it's hurting my family, then I'd have to consider this.

That's the first daylight that he's offered here. And to me, it suggests that as this all plays out, he'll have to see how his family reacts to it. It injects another element into his decision making.

VAN SUSTEREN: I can tell you every woman in this country is looking at the picture -- a video we put up of his wife, Gloria, who we interviewed here and who is a very, very sweet woman. And he's got some explaining to do at home, if it's true.

KLEIN: He certainly does. And if he's denying it flat out, then that's, again, one strategy in all of this. But this woman has some documentation in terms of contacts they've had with each other. And I just don't -- I think this is the last thing that Herman Cain wants to be talking about pretty clearly right now.

I think this whole incident or the series of allegations that have come out there, all they have done is open him up to other charges and other scrutiny and the fact we start scrutinizing 9-9-9 and looking at his experience on foreign policy. I think that answer he gave on Libya a couple of weeks ago -- all of that becomes fair game because of the scrutiny he gets as a frontrunner. This all gets mixed if and for a lot of candidates who are making up their mind, a lot of Republican voters haven't made up their mind yet -- it's just another reason to have doubts.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I suppose Iowa, which has a large evangelical vote -- this is not exactly the best topic to be parading in front of them.

KLEIN: No. And look, if people buy his side of the story, which is that all of this is made up and that these are complete fabrications, that's one thing. But it gets harder and harder to do that when you have so many women coming out there. This is not just anonymous allegations. These are women who are putting their names to it, putting their faces out there. And you'd have to believe that all of them are 100 percent lying for Herman Cain's denials to be true.

VAN SUSTEREN: So how -- what can he do? I mean, is there any way out of this? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for him, besides an exit strategy?

KLEIN: I think he needs to -- he needs to explain the nature of this relationship entirely, find a way to discredit the people that are accusing him across the board...

VAN SUSTEREN: Discredit or explain it?

KLEIN: Well, I think -- I think both has to happen. I think he's got to explain why the contacts happened and also explain the motivations behind why this -- why this person is making it all up. And then I think he has to get off this topic again. And he's got some speeches this week where he's going to be talking about his foreign policy. If you're going to do anything, you have to do it with policy specifics. You can't be out there preemptively denying charges of people that continue to come out of the woodwork.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does it make a difference if we were -- if we were to investigate it fully -- let's say this woman has a rather tawdry background. I mean, she made a statement that she says, I'm not proud. You know, she was -- she knew he was married, so isn't it...

KLEIN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... it isn't as though she didn't know what she was up to, if, in fact, this is even true. Does her background -- suppose that she's got a shady background. Does that have any political impact, or is that not relevant?

KLEIN: I think if it goes to establishing that she made it all up and that ends up being established...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's good! That would be good! That would be (INAUDIBLE)

KLEIN: That's how you get off here. But I don't -- I don't think -- I don't think it's enough just to question her motivations (INAUDIBLE) question her background. She's out there making a very specific allegation. You're right, it's not a criminal one, it's not -- it's not on the same order as sexual harassment, certainly, a consensual sexual relationship over a period of time.

All of that -- all of that may be said, but again, Herman Cain is saying it didn't happen, it's just not true, 100 percent untrue. You have to believe that this person concocted all of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's sort of interesting. The other candidates sort of just sit back now...

KLEIN: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... for this one because they're not going to lay a glove on him for this because the media is going after him with -- you know, so aggressively looking at it.

KLEIN: That's right. And the dynamics of this race have changed around Herman Cain. Herman Cain has gone on and done his thing. He did 9- 9-9 plan, rode him (ph) to this new level of prominence and then of scrutiny, and then everything has changed. And now Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are the ones jostling for the nomination. Herman Cain at the last debate really was a nonentity, a non-factor. And I think we'll probably continue to see it play out in polls, where more and more voters decide they're going to park their vote elsewhere.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, in the run-up to the primary back in 1992, former president Clinton, who was not -- who was then Governor Clinton -- he had some allegations against him and he had some tapes.

KLEIN: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: He survived. What's the difference?

KLEIN: I think -- I think the handling of it, for one. I mean, Bill Clinton handled it masterfully. He had a family at his side that went out there and pushed back against these things. And I think voters ultimately made a judgment that they knew what was out there and they didn't really care about it. Herman Cain has to hope for a similar dynamic, and he has to hope for maybe some other missteps along the way for him to be able to chart a path back.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, because he did get the nomination, they also -- he also had the advantage of having Ross Perot join...

KLEIN: That's right, a third party.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and be a third party candidate...

KLEIN: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and hurt President Bush 41.

KLEIN: Splitting the race, yes. Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Boy, it's a tough night for the Cain family.

KLEIN: Yes, never good when you have to go out there before the fact and say, I know someone's about to say something terrible about me and it's just not true.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, his lawyer -- I'm not sure his lawyer helped him much with the statement. I though the lawyer -- a very lawyerly-like statement but not a very political statement.

KLEIN: Well, a different statement than his. He actually 100 percent rebuts the charges. The lawyer says, These are not things that a presidential candidate should have to answer, period.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rick, thank you.