National Press Club

Cain denies sexual harassment, touts tax plan, sings spiritual at Club luncheon

October 31, 2011 | By Andrew Kreig | andrew.kreig@gmail.com

Republican presidential nomination contender Herman Cain

Republican presidential nomination contender Herman Cain

Photo/Image: Al Teich

GOP presidential contender Herman Cain rebutted a sexual harassment allegation, asserted that his tax plan would revitalize the country and sang a spiritual a cappella at a sold out National Press Club luncheon on Oct. 31.

Club President Mark Hamrick began the Q&A portion of the event by asking Cain about allegations that he sexually harrassed two staff members when he was chief executive of the the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Politico reported on Oct. 30 that the organization paid the former staffers to settle the claim.

“I would be delighted to clear the air,” Cain responded. “I have never sexually harassed anyone and these accusations are totally false.”

Cain, a former business executive and radio host nearing his 66th birthday, said he was being “falsely accused” of misconduct. He said he didn’t know details of a settlement by the association, as reported in the Politico story. In interviews later Monday, Cain admitted he knew about at least one of the settlements.

“I recused myself,” Cain said, “and allowed my general counsel and my human resource officer to deal with the situation, and it was concluded after a thorough investigation that it had no basis.”

The luncheon began on a high note for Cain, as Hamrick introduced him to a standing- room crowd as “the front-runner” for the GOP nomination, based on the latest polls.

Cain began by complimenting his waiter, Andrew Price, on Price's 44 years at the Club, during which he served several U.S. presidents.

“I would be Number Nine,” Cain said, alluding to his 9-9-9 tax plan. “Some things you might call a coincidence. I call it a good sign.”

Warming to his theme, Cain criticized President Barack Obama's job performance.

“The biggest crisis we face is a severe crisis of leadership, in my opinion, in the White House," Cain said. “The latest projection is that the economy is supposed to grow at 1.6 percent. That’s anemic. We can do better.”

Cain told the audience, which had been served cupcakes decorated with the numbers 9-9-9, that his tax plan would triple the current economic growth rate by expanding business opportunities.

Under Cain's proposal, the tax code would be replaced with a 9 percent personal flat tax, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent sales tax.

Cain was asked about a recent Washington Post report that his plan would not raise enough money for the federal government to function. For his answer, Cain summoned to the podium Rich Lowrie, his campaign’s chief economic adviser.

“The plan as designed will bring in the same amount of money" as current taxes, Lowrie said. Lowrie, like Cain, has been a leader in Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group supported by the Charles and David Koch family.

Cain contrasted his tax proposal with that of a competitor, former Sen. Rick Santorum.

"Politicians are interested in proposing things they think can pass," Cain said.
"Businessmen propose things they think can fix the problem.”

Hamrick concluded the event by asking Cain, without advance warning, to “end on a high note” by singing. Cain, an associate minister at a Baptist church in Atlanta that he has attended since age 10, complied by rendering “Amazing Grace” a cappella.