Herman Cain repeatedly insisted that a junior female employee go home with him while they were out with other National Restaurant Association employees one night, according to The New York Times and Politico. The reports offer the most details so far of what the Republican presidential candidate was accused of, and they're very different from the only comments Cain has made about what lead to the complaints, an innocent gesture in which he told one woman she was the same height as his wife.
According to The Times's Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny, NRA staffers were out drinking -- this appears to be the incident former NRA pollster and current Rick Perry staffer Chris Wilson referred to on a Oklahoma radio station -- when Cain's "flirty banter with the woman crossed over into propositions that she leave with him, these people said, speaking in separate interviews and on the condition of anonymity." The woman said no, but Cain kept asking. That matches with what Wilson has said on the record, when he described on Wednesday an incident at a a restaurant in northern Virginia involving a junior staffer.
Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel and Maggie Haberman, and Alexander Burns report that the woman felt Cain's proposition "was overtly sexual in nature and that 'she perceived that her job was at risk if she didn't do it.'" The woman "was livid and lodged a verbal complaint with an NRA board member that same night." From both reports, the National Restaurant Association seems to have taken the complaint quite seriously, contrary to Cain's claims that the general counsel found them to be "baseless." Politico says at least one other board member and general counsel Peter Kilgore were alerted to the incident, and there were "urgent discussions of the woman’s accusations at top levels of the National Restaurant Association within hours."
The woman left with a $35,000 payout not long after -- The Times says the agreement was "unusual not only for its size, three people familiar with it said, but also for its confidentiality provision" -- because "she was not getting along with her bosses," a former NRA employee told Politico. TheTimes says that after she made her complaint, the woman felt she was working in a hostile work environment, noticing "a 'change of attitude,' from her bosses toward her, they said, adding to her discomfort and leading her to finally decide it would be best to leave."
Politico's story closes with this paragraph that makes it clear the woman did not try to get this story out:
The woman recently told her new employer that an embarrassing story might soon break involving her and a GOP presidential candidate. Politico initially reached the woman on the phone about two weeks ago, when she declined to comment, and has not been able to reach her since then.
Even thought Cain has admitted he now remembers the settlements happened, his aide told The Washington Post's Nia-Malika Henderson that the campaign is considering suing Politico for breaking the sexual harassment story.
"This is likely not over with Politico from a legal perspective," a campaign official told the Post, stopping short of explaining what exactly he meant by taking legal action against the publication.
Politico's Executive Editor, Jim VandeHei said in a statement:
"We have heard nothing from the Cain campaign. We stand confidently behind every story Politico reporters have written on the topic."
The campaign has been working with a crisis management lawyer since Saturday, ThePost reports. Meanwhile, the campaign is making use of the charges, sending out a fundraising appeal Thursday saying the reports just showed how scared liberals are of Cain's ideas. Americans for Cain has released an ad calling the charges "a high-tech lynching," with audio of Rush Limbaugh denouncing the racist media as the logos for several news organizations float ominously on screen.