0

Cain struggles to overcome allegations controversy

WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain struggled to overcome the storm of controversy from sexual harassment accusations on Thursday as the threat of a damaging written statement by one of his accusers and shifting explanations by a top aide left his efforts and even his candidacy in doubt.

"This will not deter me" in the race for the White House, Cain declared, repeatedly denying the accusations in interviews on conservative media outlets.

"Did you tell a woman she looked good?" radio host Sean Hannity asked. "That dress looks hot?"

"Nope."

"Any flirtation that you can think of?"

"Nope," Cain said firmly.

At the same time, he and aides tried to demonstrate a campaign returning to normalcy or even benefiting from the controversy.

Cain held private meetings in New York during the day, including one on foreign policy with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

And campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon said donors had sent in $1.2 million since news of the allegations first surfaced, far above the customary amount for several days.

Since it was reported late Sunday that at least two women had complained about Cain when they worked at the National Restaurant Association -- and had received financial settlements -- Cain has said consistently he never sexually harassed anyone. But his answers to other pertinent questions have changed. In one instance, he first denied knowing of any settlements with former employees, 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 television interview on Thursday with Fox News Channel, Mark Block, Cain's chief of staff, 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."

It was unclear when all the facts might emerge.

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 stemming from her accusation 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.