Last night, Politico broke the news that Herman Cain was involved in a sexual-harassment suit during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association. "At least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group," writes Politico. According to the story, Cain used sexual innuendo when interacting with the women in question; one reported an "unwanted sexual advance" from Cain during an event. Politico reports that both women received financial compensation upon leaving the association, and one was warned that "she may be the subject of an embarrassing story involving a presidential candidate."
So far, the Cain campaign has reacted with a series of "non-denial denials." In a phone interview with Fox News, campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon denied the allegations and dodged further questions from host Geraldo Rivera. "All I'm telling you right now is, this is something the establishment is trying to attack Mr. Cain on," Gordon said. The campaign also released a formal statement, calling the charges "thinly sourced allegations," and saying that "Washington establishment critics ... are trying to attack him in any way they can."
It's a little hard to figure out just how this will affect Cain's campaign. If conservative media lashes out against the "liberal establishment"—and approaches this as Clarence Thomas versus Anita Hill, part deux—then Cain could find himself insulated from the charges. But Cain's religious faith plays a significant part in his appeal to GOP voters, and this could knock him down a notch in Iowa, where the most recent poll has him at the front of the pack. What's more, the revelation could complicate Cain's nascent efforts at building an actual campaign infrastructure.
As it stands, some conservatives have begun to rally around Cain. Ann Coulter has called the Politico piece "another high-tech lynching." The American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord followed suit: "[T]oo many people have seen this movie. So they already know what to call this: High Tech Lynching of an Uppity Conservative Black man. The Sequel."