POLITICS

Cain blames media, Perry for furor

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On Wednesday, Cain said he believed a political consultant on his 2004 Senate campaign who now is helping presidential rival Rick Perry had leaked the information. But he backed off on the day after. "If he didn't ask me about this and he was my general political consultant, then he didn't do his job," Cain said, referring to Curt Anderson. "I am almost certain that I did" tell him about an allegation.

Anderson denied leaking the information and said he first saw the accusations in the Politico report that started the week's events.

Texas Gov. Perry, who fell in opinion polls as Cain rose, also repeated denials that his campaign had anything to do with the reports. He said on CNN, "This is over, it's gone, it's done with and I'm pressing on."

Media coverage continued. Politico, citing anonymous sources, reported that one of the women contended that Cain made a sexual overture to her and invited her to his hotel room during a National Restaurant Association event in the late 1990s. The report said the woman was livid and complained to a member of the group's board later that night.

The publication cited multiple sources, including an acquaintance of the woman and a person who attended the restaurant association meeting at which the woman lodged her complaint.

In a television interview on Thursday with Fox News Channel, Mark Block, Cain's chief of staff, first stood by his accusation that consultant Anderson first leaked details, then he reversed course. "Until we get all the facts, I'm just going to say we accept what Mr. Anderson said."

It was unclear when all the facts might emerge.

Joel Bennett, an attorney for one of the women alleging sexual harassment, said he was seeking permission from the National Restaurant Association to release a statement on her behalf. Under an agreement stemming from her accusation in 1999, the woman agreed not to speak publicly about the episode she said occurred when she worked for the trade group and Cain was its president.

Asked whether he would like his former employer to agree to the request, Cain sidestepped.

"That's totally their decision," he said on Hannity's program. "I can't ask them to do that because that would create a legal liability that I don't want to be responsible for." Sue Hensley, a spokeswoman for the restaurant group, said its lawyers were reviewing the draft statement and would respond on Friday.

Cain specifically denied allegations by a third woman who told The Associated Press this week that she had considered filing a workplace complaint against him alleging aggressive and unwanted behavior, including a private invitation to his corporate apartment.

He criticized a pollster who did work for the restaurant association when he worked there as politically hostile to him. The pollster, Chris Wilson, said in an interview with AP this week that he witnessed Cain making inappropriate comments and gestures toward a different young woman who worked for the group. He said the event occurred at a dinner in a hotel in Arlington, Va., in the late 1990s.

Cain's presidential rivals generally steered clear of the controversy, preferring to let it play out without offering an opinion on the charges.

"The voters won't find surprises with me. My policy positions have been nothing if not consistent," Rep. Michele Bachmann told Fox News while campaigning in Iowa on Thursday. "I'm not going to comment. It's up to the voters."

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