Herman Cain is finally being taken seriously as a presidential candidate -- which means reporters are out to dig up dirt from his past and then parse every single word in his campaign's denials about that dirt. Cain has been accused of running for president just to sell books, of not bothering to learn much about the biggest issues of the day, of mismanaging his campaign staff. But he's tied with Mitt Romney at the top of national polls and in Iowa, so the nontraditional candidate is going to have to answer traditional questions. "Yes, I am an unconventional candidate, and yes, I do have a sense of humor and some people have a problem with that," Cain told reporters at the American Enterprise Institute Monday, after saying he was prepared to take "arrows" later in the day. "But Herman is going to stay Herman."
Cain's spokesman J.D. Gordon called in to Geraldo Rivera's Fox News show Sunday night to push back against a Politico report that two former Cain employees had received five-figure settlements for sexual harassment claims against him. But it sounded like Gordon hadn't quite thought through what he was going to say. When Gordon claimed the story was an example of the liberal media attacking a conservative, Geraldo demanded, "Are you denying there was a cash settlement to two employees of the National Restaurant Association, yes or no?" Gordon responded, "You would have to get that from the National Restaurant Association." Cain's campaign manager, Mark Block, offered a denial that suggests he's leaving himself some wiggle room in case the story is true. He told the Los Angeles Times' Mike Memoli, "I am not personally aware of any cash settlement relating to sexual harassment charges to Mr. Cain." Later, Block went further, telling NBC News' Chuck Todd, "Herman Cain has never sexually harassed anybody. Period. End of story."
Cain himself didn't do much better. When Politico's Jonathan Martin asked him, "Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life of harassment by a woman?" Cain paused, then asked the reporter, "Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?"