November 11th, 2011
04:40 PM ET
11 years ago

Cain faces pushback over Anita Hill remark

(CNN) - Herman Cain wouldn't answer questions Friday afternoon about a comment he made regarding Anita Hill, the law school professor whose sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 made national headlines.

"I want to get back on message. That's not on message," Cain told reporters outside a fundraising event in New York City. "I want to fix this economy so people can go back to work–not continue all this attention of stuff that does not matter."

Cain, who's been embroiled in allegations of inappropriate behavior from his time leading the National Restaurant Association, was at a campaign event on Thursday in Michigan, where he was jokingly asked if he had heard from Hill.

In the moment, caught on camera by Fox News, the Republican presidential candidate bent over chuckling and quipped, "Is she going to endorse me?" The rest of the room then erupted with laughter.

While the initial question that prompted Cain's response was inaudible in the video, the candidate confirmed in a radio interview Friday that he was asked about being contacted by Hill.

"It in no way was intended to be an insult towards Anita Hill or anybody else," Cain said on Fred Dicker's radio show.

Cain, instead, insisted the media was zeroing-in on him in an attack strategy he termed "flyspecking."

"Any word I say is now gonna be flyspecked by somebody and somebody who does not support Herman Cain," he said. "They're going to try to spin it into a negative."

Cain faced questions Friday over how he handled the "Anita Hill" comment, given the comparison that some have made between Cain's situation and the Thomas-Hill showdown.

Several Cain supporters have painted the GOP White House hopeful as a black conservative victimized by those on the left who may be unhappy with an African American running as a Republican.

A super political action committee backing Cain released an ad last week, telling viewers that Thomas went through a similar so-called "high-tech lynching" when Hill's allegations raised serious questions about the nominee.

The ad ended with an on-screen message: "Don't let the left do it again."

Cain has repeatedly denied that he's ever sexually harassed anyone, calling the accusations false and "baseless" in multiple media appearances as well as a press conference.

Meanwhile, some on both the right and left have questioned Cain's handling of the nearly-two week ordeal. On Friday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a rival for the Republican presidential nomination, argued that now is not the time to be making jokes.

"I think if you look at the concerns we have, about issues like sexual harassment, look at the tragedy at Penn state, if you look at how people feel in general about this kind of stuff, it's not something to joke about," Gingrich said on Laura Ingraham's radio show.

- CNN's Kevin Liptak and Rebecca Stewart contributed to this report.

Also see:

Poll: Three-way battle for GOP nomination

Gingrich: Not running for 'super governor'

Bachmann: Protesters were 'ignorant' and 'disrespectful'

Filed under: 2012 • Clarence Thomas • Herman Cain
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. jlbachs

    Yep, he's circling the drain. Perry is right there with him – too much like G.W. and we've already had too much of that. Don't like Romney either. Paul is too extreme for me. I'm about convinced Bachman is a psycho, Gingrich has the knowledge, but doesn't have the "presence" of a President. If things don't turn around I'm either going to have to switch teams or make my own candidate out of playdough.

    November 11, 2011 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  2. vic , nashville ,tn

    Push back is nothing we should Push him out of the race

    November 11, 2011 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  3. ED FL

    The major thing that Cain has on his side about womanizing is that he is an over the hill old man that even his money can't be used to get a real female date to get him in trouble. Dream on old man and keep wasting money on your attempt to be the GOP nominee.THE GOP WILL NEVER vote for an African American

    November 11, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  4. jnkekoa

    be nice, it's very obvious that Herman Cain has the intellectual capacity of a, let's say, a rick perry.

    November 11, 2011 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Mr. Cain your message turned to Anita Hill under your direct supervision. It's a fair question. If it is too hot in the kitchen for you, then get out.

    November 11, 2011 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  6. Dee

    Mr. Cain is staying true to form – laughing, dancing and cracking jokes. That's his "platform", and he's sticking to it! Imagine him dealing with foreign dignitaries like that! But hey, some people are comfortable with Cain's type of demeanor. Less threatening, if you get my drift!!

    November 11, 2011 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  7. Spiraling Agony

    Hey Herman,

    Nancy Pelosi was elected to office many times. How many times have you been? oh, that's right, you haven't.. She earned her status, you have earned very little other than ridicule and scorn from the smarter folks in this country. Referring to Princess Nancy... you should be ashamed.

    November 11, 2011 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  8. Bob in Pa

    Thats a lot less than Obama getting caught on mic calling someone a f#%%ng a$5^%le.
    I would have laughed to. Time for the libs out there to grow up.

    November 11, 2011 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  9. thomas

    I have respect for Anita Hill , I do not have respect for Herman Cain or Clarence Thomas !

    I'm a Father of a little girl .

    November 11, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  10. Oldie in TampaBay

    bottom line here is this .. he has harassed these women which is bad enough BUT he has repeatedly lied about it. Alot can be forgiven and/or overlooked ... LYING can't!

    November 11, 2011 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  11. jerry

    that was funny...hahaha I like his sense of humor. No matter how hard the leftist try to kick him down they just make him stronger and more viable.

    November 11, 2011 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  12. drgrover

    yes... people flyspeck you when you are running for office.... they gonna find you homeboy!~ lol...

    does he realize that it gets infinitely worse if he, heaven forbid, actually becomes president?

    November 11, 2011 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  13. Joe

    Saying you want to "get back on message" is political speak. I thought Cain was supposed to be the non-politician. I've seen tone-deaf, but never at this level before. The GOP is in dire straights that there pool of candidates creates a "leader of the week" only to see them sadly go up in flames the next week. All of this because the conservatives that control the GOP don't want to support Romney (the guy who passed a state-based health care plan that mirrors the national plan supported by the President). Wow, really must suck to be a Republican these days if that is their best and brightest.

    November 11, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  14. bob bob

    Cain and Perry should get their own comedy/reality show.

    November 11, 2011 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  15. rs

    Goodnight, Herman, thanks for playing.

    November 11, 2011 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  16. Tbirdamus

    To all Conservative Women: Please reconsider any support for the Republican Party until they consistently begin treating women with some semblance of respect.

    November 11, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  17. izy

    this man is done, he should just stop talking and quit, he sounds more guiltier by the minute...every explanation to the situation seems more farfetched. hey Mrs. need a divorce lawyer

    November 11, 2011 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  18. CanadaOne

    Cain – what a dsigrace to AMERICA

    USA you look silly even having him think he can run for president!

    November 11, 2011 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  19. dan

    Cain is not Able and never would be, either.

    November 11, 2011 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  20. vc

    Everytime Cain open mouth, he insert foot. Who is playing the race card? Answer: Cain. He is so disrespectful!! He is such a disgrace to the black race by acting so stupid.

    November 11, 2011 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  21. Not fooled

    Herman Cain would make a horrible President and he wouldn't make it as a comedian either. His disrespect of Nancy Pelosi and now Anita Hill is proof of this.

    November 11, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
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