A third woman has come forward saying U.S. Republican presidential aspirant Herman Cain foisted unwanted sexual attention on her when she worked for him in the 1990s.
The ex-employee of the U.S. National Restaurant Association, which Cain used to run, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she had considered filing a workplace complaint over what she considered aggressive and unwanted behaviour by the Georgia businessman.
The employee described situations in which she said Cain told her he had confided to colleagues how attractive she was and invited her to his corporate apartment outside work. She spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she feared retaliation.
The accusations follow Sunday's revelation by the U.S. website Politico that the restaurant association paid five-figure financial settlements more than a decade ago to two other ex-employees who alleged Cain sexually harassed them.
The news has proved explosive for Cain, who in the last few weeks rocketed to the top in the race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, with many polls placing him even with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. The one-time pizza chain CEO appeals to some conservatives because he is a political outsider at a time of anti-Washington sentiment that could help the Republicans challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012.
But his campaign has hit rocky ground, and Cain himself is losing patience for the harassment allegations. Confronted by reporters Wednesday after he left a speech in Virginia, Cain told them "don't even bother" asking about the scandal. When pressed about the allegations, Cain raised his voice and said, "What did I say? Excuse me, excuse me!" as hotel security led him through a hotel hallway jammed with journalists.
Woman seeks to lift secrecy deal
Adding to his woes, it emerged Tuesday night that one of the two women who accused Cain of sexual harassment more than a decade ago is trying to cancel a confidentiality pact so she can tell her story, according to her lawyer. Attorney Joel Bennett said in media interviews that he has asked the National Restaurant Association to waive the confidentiality agreement so the woman can respond to Cain's claims that the complaints were "totally baseless and totally false."
"I know her very well," Bennett told CNN, "and I'm sure she would not make a false complaint."
New Hampshire primary date set
New Hampshire has scheduled its presidential primary, the first in the U.S. electoral cycle, for the second Tuesday in January, finally giving candidates a concrete calendar after months of uncertainty.
The Jan. 10 date announced by Secretary of State Bill Gardner on Wednesday had been widely expected since Nevada Republicans voted last month to cancel an earlier decision to move up their presidential caucuses to mid-January. Gardner had warned that Nevada's initial decision could force New Hampshire, traditionally No. 2 overall in the electoral cycle behind the Iowa caucus, to vote in early December.
Over the past two days, Cain has admitted he knew of one agreement between the restaurant association and a woman who accused him of sexual harassment. He has said the woman initially asked for a large financial settlement but ultimately received two to three months' pay as part of a separation agreement.
Cain also eventually acknowledged remembering one of the women's accusations against him, saying the complaint stemmed from a hand gesture he made while stepping close to her to make a reference to her height, during which he told her she was the same height as his wife.
He has said he is not aware of agreements or settlements with any other women.
But the New York Times reported Tuesday night that the trade group gave another female employee a year's salary in severance pay, $35,000, after she said an encounter with Cain made her uncomfortable working there. The newspaper cited three people with knowledge of the payment to the woman.
Cain has repeatedly denied he ever harassed anyone but has struggled to remain consistent on the details. He first denied remembering the specifics of the complaints, then offered up some details of the height-comparison incident. He said in interviews that the details had come back to him during an intense day of questioning.