WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain struggled yesterday to overcome the controversy stemming from sexual harassment accusations, as the threat of a damaging written statement by one of his accusers and shifting explanations by a top aide left his candidacy in doubt.
"This will not deter me" in the race for the White House, Cain declared as he made a series of appearances on conservative media outlets. He repeatedly denied the accusations and blamed an inside-the-Beltway culture he described as "guilty until proven innocent" for the intense scrutiny.
In an effort to show his campaign returning to normalcy, Cain discussed foreign policy with Henry Kissinger and held other meetings in New York.
Since the allegations surfaced late last weekend, Cain has said consistently he never sexually harassed anyone, but his answers to other pertinent questions have changed repeatedly. In one instance, he first denied knowing of any financial settlements, then said he recalled one, explaining he had been aware of an "agreement" but not a "settlement." On Wednesday, Cain said he believed a political consultant for rival Rick Perry had leaked the information. The consultant, Curt Anderson, denied it.
In a Fox News interview yesterday, Cain's chief of staff, Mark Block, first stood by the accusation, then reversed course. "Until we get all the facts, I'm just going to say we accept what Mr. Anderson said."
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 reached 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. A spokeswoman for the restaurant group said its lawyers were reviewing the draft statement and would respond today.
Cain, in an interview with the conservative Daily Caller, said campaigning in the nation's capital can be disorienting.
"The way questions are asked, when I'm speaking to a group here in D.C. is coming from a totally different perspective than when I'm being asked questions from the real people. The real people come at it, here's the problem, what do you think the solution is? Inside D.C., inside the bubble as you call it, they're coming at the perspective of skepticism."