Herman Cain — facing a string of sexual harassment allegations and a claim of an extramarital affair — announced Saturday he is suspending his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

He told supporters in Atlanta, Ga., he is no longer part of the race for the presidency because of what he called "false and unproved allegations."

"They have sidetracked and distracted my ability to present solutions to the American people," Cain said.

The latest allegation surfaced five days ago, when Atlanta-area businesswoman Ginger White came forward to say she had a 13-year extramarital affair with Cain. The claim followed several allegations by other women of sexual harassment.

Cain denounced the accusations of impropriety against him as "false and unproven."

"I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt caused to me and my family," Cain said, adding that the allegations have had an impact on his ability to raise the "necessary funds to be competitive."

The Georgia businessman's wife stood behind him on the stage as he made his announcement before several hundred supporters gathered at what was to have been the opening of his national campaign headquarters.

"Now, I have made many mistakes in life," said the former Godfather's Pizza chief executive. "I've made mistakes professionally, personally, as a candidate, in terms of how I run my campaign. And I take responsibility for the mistakes I've made."

Cain added: "I am at peace with my God. I am at peace with my wife. And she is at peace with me."

Cain said he would offer an endorsement in the near future. He warned those at the federal level of government that he wasn't going away and would continue trying to influence Washington from the outside.

The businessman said he had launched a new website that would be the nexus of a grassroots effort to bring government back to the people.

"I am not going to be silenced, and I am not going away. And therefore, as of today, Plan B. Plan B," he said.

Tea party conservatives backed Georgia businessman

Cain, who has never held elected office, rose to become an unexpected front-runner in the volatile Republican race just weeks ago. A self-styled outsider, Cain enjoyed strong tea party support from conservatives who viewed him as an alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

But once in the national spotlight, Cain fumbled policy questions, leaving some to wonder whether he was ready for the presidency.

Then it was revealed at the end of October that the National Restaurant Association had paid settlements to two women who claimed Cain sexually harassed them while he was president of the organization.

A third woman told The Associated Press that Cain made inappropriate sexual advances but that she didn't file a complaint.

A fourth woman also stepped forward to accuse Cain of groping her in a car in 1997.

Cain has denied wrongdoing in all cases.

Polls suggest his popularity has suffered. A Des Moines Register poll released Friday showed Cain's support plunging, with backing from 8 percent of Republican caucus-goers in Iowa, compared with 23 percent a month ago.

Despite Saturday's announcement, Cain said he would continue to promote his proposals to reform U.S. financial and foreign policy.

"I am not going to be silenced and I am not going away," he said.

 

With files from The Associated Press