Former U.S. presidential candidate Herman Cain dead after being hospitalized for coronavirus

Herman Cain, a Republican candidate for president in 2012, has died after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to a statement on his website and social media pages.

Cain attended controversial Trump rally in Tulsa though it's not clear how he contracted COVID-19

Herman Cain, seen in 2014, was a surprising early contender in the Republican presidential race over two years earlier. His death was announced on Thursday, a month after he was first hospitalized with coronavirus. (Molly Riley/The Associated Press)

Herman Cain, a Republican candidate for president in 2012, has died after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to a statement on his website and social media pages.

He was 74.

"We're heartbroken, and the world is poorer: Herman Cain has gone to be with the Lord," posts on his social media accounts said.

It's not clear when or where Cain was infected, but he was hospitalized less than two weeks after attending U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign rally on June 20 in Tulsa, Okla. Cain, not seen wearing a mask in available pictures of the event, did not meet with Trump there.

Cain had entered an Atlanta-area hospital for treatment on July 1.

"We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight," read an article posted on his Twitter account. "He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. We all prayed that the initial meds they gave him would get his breathing back to normal, but it became clear pretty quickly that he was in for a battle."

In a condolence tweet Thursday, Trump described Cain as "a Powerful Voice of Freedom and all that is good."

"Herman had an incredible career and was adored by everyone that ever met him, especially me," Trump wrote. "He was a very special man, an American Patriot, and great friend."

Surprise candidate

Cain briefly rose to the top of polls during the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination despite never having held political office by stressing the need to simplify the tax code with what he called the 9-9-9 plan.

On the campaign trail, he spoke about being diagnosed in 2006 with Stage 4 liver cancer and his doctors giving him slim hope for long-term survival. 

The Georgian eventually faded in the polls, with allegations of sexual harassment and an extramarital affair soon surfacing. He also stumbled on some debate answers when tested on his knowledge of U.S. foreign policy.

Mitt Romney, who emerged as the Republican nominee in that contest and now serves as Utah senator, helped lead the tributes to Cain on social media, calling him a "formidable champion of business, politics and policy."

WATCH | Mitt Romney pays tribute to Herman Cain:

Mitt Romney pays tribute to Herman Cain

1 year ago
Duration 0:29
Cain ran against the Republican senator from Utah during the 2012 U.S. presidential race. 0:29

Democrat Ted Deutch of Florida said he was "shaken by Mr. Cain's passing."

"Like so many of the 150,000+ COVID-19 deaths in America, Herman Cain's death was preventable, heartbreaking, senseless, and enraging," said Deutch.

White House press secretary Kaleigh McEnany expressed her condolences, saying Cain "embodied the American Dream and represented the very best of the American spirit."

Trump posited putting up Cain for a spot on the Federal Reserve Board in 2019 but after opposition arose, he was not put forth as a nominee. He had served as chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City decades earlier.

Herman Cain shakes hands with Mitt Romney after a June 2011 debate in Manchester, N.H., as fellow candidates Ron Paul, second from left, and Tim Pawlenty look on. (Joel Page/Reuters)

Trump faced criticism for holding the big-arena event despite warnings from public health experts that it is not yet safe to hold mass gatherings.

More than 6,000 people attended the rally at the BOK Center. At least six campaign staffers and two members of the Secret Service working in advance of the Tulsa rally tested positive for coronavirus.

Cain kept involved in conservative politics recently as a commentator on Newsmax, which was the first media outlet to report his death on Thursday.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Gloria Etchison, and their children and grandchildren.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Cain had never run for political office prior to making an early splash in the 2012 presidential race. In fact, he very briefly ran for president in 2000, and lost a contest for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia four years later.
    Jul 30, 2020 11:40 AM ET

With files from CBC News