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
Time for a media blackout of all Cain activity. Seriously, just ignore this guy for a week or two and he will quickly realize that without a free press, he is an unknown guy who just outlived his 15 minutes of fame.
The gossip mongers in the media are a big turn off any topic that would be meaningful.
It is obvious that the media morons care not for any American. Those gnats just want to 'stir the pot' and foment controversies after controversies; because the media morons get paid by how much negative buzz they can generate.
Herman just doesn't get it. His campaign is a joke without a prayer.
Huntsman on Meet the Press today is calling Herman out to go clean. Huntsman wants Herman to give us all the facts in the story. Herman needs to deal with a crisis like this correctly and he can't.
My opinion is that the facts speak for themselves that the GOP candidates are not worth our time.
Huntsman nailed Flip Flopper Mitt Romeny who speaks on one side and then the other one four key issues.
Unfortunately for Huntsman his moment is coming in the NH primaries. After that he is a nobody again.
This is one arrogant idiot. He will never have a chance to be POTUS. Right now the Republicans are " playing " with him, but think about it. Does anyone ever think that those racists would ever allow another black man to get into office so soon ? It will take many years before that happens, and this man isn't 1/2 black, he is 100% black. Never going to happen.
And just why did Herman Cain leave the restaurant association before the end of his term? Maybe they were tired of paying for his indiscretions.
Another GOP idiot blaming the media for making him look bad...whatever happened to blame yourself Cain? The end of story is that you are politically DOA. America is ready to move beyond the Mad Men mentality of corporate America.
I didn't like "Dumb and Dumber" the first time I saw it. This re-run is even worse.
Democrats using anonymous accusers against a black man! What’s new!
"This president is about as candid and accurate as Bernie Madoff in what he tells the American people," Gingrich said."
That would be *Republican* Bernie Madoff – who was able to get away with his crimes for so long because *Republicans* eliminated financial oversight?
Sounds to me he is handling the press exactly like Obama did during his election campaign in 2007 and 8
as a matter of fact Obama does the same thing now. Even kicking out reports that ask questions he doesn't like
Of course Americans hate this guy, they hate everyone who succeeds at anything. Look what you do to your sitting presidents! Look at your celebrities. You guys should pick up your guns point of each other and in one synchronized BANG end it all.
Will he refuse to answer questions too, if he becomes President Cain? This doesn't bode well for transparency or candor. And that reporter is a lot more gracious than I would have been – not sure the reporter is the one who needs the ethics refresher.
The Republican led media and the Republicans are destroying America. It is time for people to stand up to the media. They should be reporting real news not Tabloid gossip.
What an idiot, he is not the decider when it is "end of story".
I guess because he says he is a brother to the Koch brothers he thinks he can get away with saying or doing anything.
Welcome to the real world.
I suppose it is possible to make yourself look more guilty and more unprofessional and unqualified for president, but I sure don't know how.
Even if the allegations are eventually shown to be false, he has presented himself as dishonest and just not able to keep his cool under pressure. A president HAS to be able to stay cool under pressure no matter what. There is too much at stake not to.
Cain decided it was important for him to finally do well in a debate. So he went against the guy that even 99% of Republicans wouldn't vote for. Good move, Herman.
Cain's polling numbers have dropped 9% in just the last few days according to the latest Reuter story yesterday. The negative effects of his scandal are just beginning to come in. Wait until next week to see just how badly his pizza's has been burned.
Doesn't this idiot understand that you can't simply refuse to respond to questions regarding such a serious offense? Are Americans willing to let him get away with that? I am amazed at his arrogance and you can be quite sure that world leaders would not be impressed with it either. This is not the media's fault. It's his own fault and he needs to come clean. There is not just one claim against him. Why is it among these candidates – it's always someone elses fault?
Cain...what an appropriate name!
This guy is obviously not ready for prime time. Yet the TEA Party stooges will continue to make excuses for him.
Cain (a Corporate executive and politician) calling "too many people in the media that are downright dishonest." Sounds like the pot calling the kettle -– well maybe the pot told the TEA kettle if it's too hot on the stove then jump off and get out of the kitchen.
Warning to Cain, time to drop out as you have already shown everyone that you will be a repeat of the failure we have in office now! I give you an A+ when it comes to the blame game....... You and Obama must have been in the same class together!
YouCantHandleTheTruth: "And just why did Herman Cain leave the restaurant association before the end of his term?"
To be the national co-chairman of Steve Forbes' presidential campaign...in June 1999...before this woman ever claimed he was creating a "hostile workplace".
Hey Uncle Tom Cain.....you better starting answering the questions and quit the shuck and jive shuffle. We know you're dirty and you need to own up to it. If you won't tell the truth you won't get elected.