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.
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If Cain wants to control the message so tightly, he should be taught a lesson. Not one self-respecting reporter should cover his lame events, from here on out. Watch the campaign suffocate.
If this man is having so much trouble dealing with this as a candidate just imagine how'd he do as the Prez. Arrogance and money will only get you so far Herman.
It aint's gonna go away, Herman. But you are. Once your flavor of the month status wears off and people see what a creep you are, you will be replaced by another lunatic from the far right.
Herman Cain is on a glorified book tour. He wants to be President about as much as I want to eat a piece of Godfathers' garbage pizza. Just leave him be...he'll go away once this ceases to be profitable.
Hermie says: "No, Where's my chief of staff? Please send him the journalistic code of ethics.". I guess he thinks he is old school royalty! When he's not even new school commoner!
Poor Cain, all he wanted is to promote his book, now he trying to pull all kinds of outrage out there in hopes to end his "bit" for Presidency, but conservatives are not ready to let him go, because what they've got? Romney?
What a role model! If you don't like questions now, what happens if he's elected. Will he limit what questions he will answer? What's amazing is that some think that his behavior shouldn't be an issue–the same who objected so strenuously to Clinton's!
Go Hermanator! Destroy the Liberal culture that has weakened America!
To the smear experts – Where is "anonymous"? Can the Left produce their "authentic" witness to these allegations? Certainly they cannot. They want to hide. They are COWARDS. They keep playing with the minds of the American public, BUT we are certainly TIRED of IT!
Cain if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen –Shame on you !
I'm sure the press will keep quite about this for another year, Herman. The press hate talking about controversey and scandal.
Mr. Cain might as well get used to being asked questions that he doesn't like. Anyone running for office of President of the United States should expect it. He's nothing special.
Irregardless of what Mr. Cain may think of the media, the media (when used correctly) can be instrumental in getting you elected (e.g. George Bush and Barrack Obama), or getting you off the campaign trail (e.g. Gary Hart).
Getting angry with the press and expressing that anger is not the best strategy.
palin, odone in delaware and angle would refuse to answer reporters questions, where are they now????????...they do not like those dimmed lights or obscurity would be a better word.....eeeeekkkk
Cain serves a purpose. As long as he is in the race the more money the Koch Brothers keep throwing away. Ain't nothing wrong with that!
Sorry, Mr. Cain, this ain't gonna go away just because YOU want it to go away...
Excccccccccccuuuuuuuusssse me! Exccccccuuuuuuuuuse me! Can't you just hear it if some foreign head of state says something he doesn't like. Give me a break. Go back to whatever you were doing and get out of this race.
Cain's problem has nothing to do with his ethnicity, it has everything to do with his arrogance and ignorance – or the part of him that is Repub.
"Getting back on message" sounds like a lot more fun than answering questions about why you tried to mislead the public about your past.
Herman, tell the truth! (Sorry that is off message, some of us Americans think it is not an unreasonable thing to ask of our political candidates.)
At first Cain seemed to be like most second tier candidates, passionate but not really knowledgeable enough about government and foreign affairs to be President. Now he is getting a bit scary. Between threatening to sue Politico and getting into these kinds of altercations with reporters, he seems to be trying to stifle the free press. Can you imagine a President stopping a reporter in mid question and then barking orders at his chief of staff about that reporter? If Cain does this when he is merely a candidate, then what would he do with the power of the Presidency?
Cain can't handle the media, it is definitely obvious. First, Cain needs to understand that there's no 'code of ethics' for the media. If there were, Princess Diana could still be alive today. The media is going to do whatever it takes to get that big juicy T-bone story out there to get the ratings up so they can make money. Cain knows a little something about making money, as we're all aware. It is too late now to do this, but the best thing for Cain to have done from the beginning would have been to acknowledge that there was accusations of mistreatment or other forms of misconduct, to which agreements were reached without his knowledge. He is unaware of the allegations, but if anyone felt offended by him in any way, he is sorry and that it was not meant in such a manner. This would keep whatever respect that he has with the ones who accused him of harrassment, and show the voters that he is a responsible person. Also there's nowhere else the media could really have ran with it. As it stands, however, he has proven that if he gets into the seat of president, he will spend all his time treading water, trying to answer to everything he has said or done, and will get absolutely nowhere. I wan to say good luck to America in picking the best person for president next election. No doubt the underlying statement embedded within the good luck to America is a wish for bad luck for Cain,
Got to love Herman Cain's stupidity to think he is running things! That is maybe how you talk to a 19 year old female flipping a pizza but not to a professional reporter asking you to "Man-up" towards your past! He is wasting time and not going anywhere!
He did something. has told to many storys. and I think thomas did what she said he did. I watch all the hearing and she was telling the truth.
Very good job Cain. Keep on the right track.
It is totally unacceptable for any President, or presidential candidate, to refuse to answer a question. If they don't like it don't run. We, as voters, need to stop putting up with this garbage. Every citizen and reporter should just keep asking the exact same question until they answer. I don't care who you are. No question dodging. Period.