The Woodlands, Texas (CNN) – Republican presidential contender Herman Cain emerged from an especially tame debate with Newt Gingrich late Saturday and attempted to end the controversy surrounding him.
Facing questions about the sexual harassment allegations against him, Cain was defiant: scolding reporters, picking which of their questions he would answer, and - at one point - entirely shutting down a reporter's query.
"Don't even go there," Cain told the questioner who'd asked about the allegations.
"Can I ask my question?" the reporter said.
"No," Cain responded. "Where's my chief of staff? Please send him the journalistic code of ethics."
The tense back-and-forth happened during a news conference moments after Cain and Gingrich appeared on stage together. Their event was billed as a debate on entitlement spending, but was marked with so much congeniality between the two that it turned out to be more of a friendly discussion.
It took place in The Woodlands, Texas, was sponsored by the Texas Patriot PAC - a tea party group - and featured Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa as one of two men teeing up questions on Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare for the candidates.
At the news conference, Cain fielded questions that were to his liking, before and after batting away the first one regarding the harassment allegations.
For example, after shutting down the reporter's query, Cain pointed to one man who'd previously identified himself as a Cain "fan" and asked: "You want to ask another good question?"
"Yes," the man said, asking Cain if he would try to "legislate from the Oval Office like Mr. Obama."
"That is a good question," Cain began his response.
Moments later, reporters again pressed the candidate.
"Mr. Cain - do you think you can just not answer questions about the sexual harassment claims?" one journalist said.
"Are you never going to answer questions about this ever again, Mr. Cain?" another asked.
Cain, sitting at a table, pushed back from it and began to walk toward the door. But he stopped short.
"If you all just listen, for 30 seconds - I will explain this one time ... I was going to do something that my staff told me not to do and try to respond," Cain said.
He continued: "What I'm saying is this - we are getting back on message, end of story. Back on message. Read all of the other accounts, where everything has been answered - end of story."
Cain has denied allegations, first reported in Politico, that he sexually harassed two women in the 1990's as head of the National Restaurant Association. On Friday, a lawyer for one of the women released a statement saying she stood by her claims against Cain, but declined to reveal her identity.
Cain's post-debate scolding followed similarly harsh comments he'd made against the press in the debate itself.
Gingrich asked Cain to name the biggest surprise he'd seen since running for president.
"The nitpickiness of the media," Cain said, eliciting a standing ovation from the largely friendly crowd.
"There are too many people in the media that are downright dishonest. Not all. But too many of them doing a disservice," Cain continued.
The majority of the debate centered on their ideas for reforming Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. The 90-minute, freewheeling discussion was billed as a modern-day Lincoln-Douglas debate.
In 1858, Republican Abraham Lincoln and incumbent Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas held seven such political face-offs, with Douglas ultimately retaining his senate seat.
In the Cain versus Gingrich match up, both men laid out their ideas - but frequently complimented each other or nodded approval when the other was speaking.
They also spoke highly of other Republicans. When the topic turned to the controversial plan to overhaul Medicare, proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, Cain said he "loved" the plan.
Cain also stressed a patient-centric, market-driven approach to the nation's health care spending problems; reiterated his support for personal retirement accounts for a younger generation who might otherwise turn to Social Security; and praised the idea of Medicaid block grants to states to "as a way to begin to get these costs under control."
As for Gingrich, he also praised Ryan's plan to overhaul Medicare; blasted any entitlement payments to "crooks;" and advised that serious health reform would require the abolishment of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
At one point, Gingrich even compared the president to one of the most notorious white-collar criminals in modern times.
"This president is about as candid and accurate as Bernie Madoff in what he tells the American people," Gingrich said.
- Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN
I love how the people on the right conveniently create their own truth. Bill Clinton was persued by the press about his "girlfriends", He was on 60 minutes about it, He was impeached over it. I am sorry that your memory is so short that you have forgotten that. Cain is facing the questions that he deserves to face. THAT SAID, I care as little about Herman Cain's personal life as I did Bill Clinton's personal life. I AM, however, very concerned about what looks to be illegal use of funds by the Cain campaign in Wisconsin....THAT IS THE REAL STORY.
"Don't even go there,"
Translation: Guilty as charged.
Cain comes across as arrogant and above scrutiny. Obama has had to live with the birther issue,.. i don't hear him whining.
Cain has been reduced to playing "Shoot The Messenger". This scandal is not the fault of the media or the Democrats. Are he and his supporters suggesting that either of them should have ignored the allegation?. No doubt if anything like this had been alleged about Barack Obama, the GOP, along with conservative talk show and the rest of his opponents would be railing about it non-stop. However, if conservatives are honest about this, they'll note that the dems have really not tried to use it as they would have if the situations were reversed. Hannity & Limbaugh have talked about Cain scandal non-stop for days but blame others for keeping it in the meidia. Don't they know that they too are part of the media?
Lol....Poor Cain being harassed by the "lamestream media" It's so unfair. Well, I tell you what...this is over now. No one is allowed to question a Republican's legitimacy.
I didn't care about the non-criminal allegations that much but when he bold-faced lied about knowing about it I felt that he should explain himself. Shame because I like his opposition to illegal immigration.
Misogyny and harassment of women are legitimate issues of concern in any election for any office. Cain is a pathetic loser who thinks he can claim memory loss and then lie about his harassment of women. If he wants to clear the air, fine, release the nature of the accusations and the terms of the settlements. We The People rely on a Free Press to get to the bottom of these legitimate accusations and if Cain thinks he can pick and choose what questions he can answer, he is in for a rude awakening. Thank gawd the republicans have a field of wacky right-wing nutjobs for the presidential nomination which means they will lose the election. We don't need another Uncle Tom harasser like Clarence Thomas in high office in this country. Both of these so-called men are bitter, pathetic, arrogant, misogynist, petty tyrants who have done nothing to make America free and instead have engaged in inflammatory accusations of others, accusations that are meant to deflect a true reporting of both Cain's and Thomas's harassment of women. Goodbye and good riddance to both these woman-haters.
If he has nothing to hide why not tell the truth. He has told so many different stories. If someone accused me of something I didn't do I would bring them all the way to court not pay them off to be quiet. Cain says " You're the same height as my wife except you have more.......
"As president of the United States, I cannot answer any of your questions because my staff told me not to." That's not a phrase I ever want to hear. wow.
I would have more respect for Cain if he simply told the truth and then let it go. Tell the truth, no ambiguous answers, end the story and move on. Every time he dodges a question he opens another window for the media to attack. And in the process looks less and less presidential.
This "scandal" isn't about what he did 10 years ago, it's about how he handles pressure. And so far he has a failing grade.
"journalistic code of ethics"?? You must be kidding. Does he actually think such a thing does or should exist? This guy would make a nasty president.
Great another worthless politician who doesn't want to admit to his extramarital affairs...He should be ignored, he isn't worth wasting any extra brain power over..
End of campaign Mr. Cain. Bubye now.
Cain may choose to shut down the answers but he can not shut down the questions. If he wants to put his behind him, he better publish the details. Otherwise he will have to deal with the questions for a long time even if he chooses not to answer them.
Mr. Cain is FINISHED. We already have a sitting President who ignores the questions that people want answered. We do not NEED another one.
So, will he also only deal with issues he is comfortable with while president?
One comment said that Cain is a gentleman and the press is out to get him"...........Sorry dear....wrong on both counts!!!!!!!
Our country, once great, is now in decline. Awash in hate, prejudice, violence, bigotry, greed and pettiness, we are drowning in our own "values". Our politicians are "owned" by lobbyists and their corporate masters. Thieves dress as kings in this political circus! Think it's bad now? Wait til next year! I fear the future as laid out by our "fearless leaders". America is becoming "No country for old men". (or young ones either, for that matter!)
It's refreshing to see that this clown just thinks he can make something go away just by saying he isn't going to talk about it. It's what the republicans are famous for but this guy is doing it center stage. What a joke. Obama takes it again will be the headlines in 2012. Quite frankly I don't think he should run I mean I wouldn't with all the republican trash talking and stalling there has been. I mean who wants to spend four years fighting idiots like this twice?
I just think it's funny how people who support him forget the fact that SETTLEMENTS WERE MADE, SO THE CASES ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Listening to or reading posts from GOP/TParty supporters and you would think these women just woke up 2 weeks ago and made this stuff up. THE SETTLEMENTS ARE FACT, SHEEPLE!! And this is the Restaurant Assoc., not some business that has to worry about stock prices or consumer confidence. But they SETTLED ON ALL 3 ACCOUNTS. The reason reporter are still asking questions is because they and we all know he's been dishonest from the start. In addition, for a man who doesn't believe racism has a major influence in today's society, he was sure quick to pull the race card. You can't have it both ways, Herm.
Welcome to the Big Top! Swift Boats, Birthers, Travel Gate, Willie Horton, Preacher Gate, Jennifer Flowers, Republican "Southern Strategy".....How else did you think this would end in the GOP? Kitchen getting to hot? Stop making pizzas
If you can't stand the heat, "Stay out of the kitchen".
Just because Cain says it's over doesn't mean it's over, either his groping of women or the press digging to get the truth out – you are TOAST Cain!
He. might as well just tell the truth and be done with it. The media will pick his bones until there is nothing left, Either that or he jumps ship.
He's just in denial. Like the rest of his lot. He says.."Just vote me as prezident"...