On Sunday, Oct. 30, Politico released an investigation into sexual harassment allegations made against Herman Cain when he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. According to the investigation, two restaurant association employees had accused Cain, now a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, of sexual harassment and received five-figure settlements to leave their jobs and not talk about the incidents.
In the nine days since, the story has exploded beyond all expectations. A steady stream of new accusers and revelations has forced Cain to backtrack on previous statements while still denying any wrongdoing, and made it nearly impossible for anyone in the GOP to focus on anything else.
Here is a recap of Cain's wild week.
Monday, Oct. 31
Cain tells Fox News' Jenna Lee that he has never sexually harassed anyone, but acknowledges that allegations were made against him: Yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association, and I say falsely because it turned out, after the investigation, to be baseless. He denies that any settlements were made, saying that if the National Restaurant Association gave his accuser money, I wasn't even aware of it.
Later, in an interview with Fox News' Greta van Susteren, Cain backs away from his earlier assertion that no settlements were made. He acknowledges one agreement for an estimated two or three months' pay, well within the range of what we would do if we had an amicable separation between the association and an employee. He refuses to say that the agreement was a direct result of the harassment allegations and continues to deny that there was a second settlement. He also recalls one incident that he did not mention earlier, in which one of the two accusers was in his office and he gestured to his chin to indicate that she was the same height as his wife, but says he can't recall any other incidents.
Tuesday, Nov. 1
Cain appears on HLN, a CNN affiliate, and tells interviewer Robin Meade that he has never committed sexual harassment in my entire career, period, and it was found that nothing took place in terms of sexual harassment in this particular case. Meade asks him to explain the discrepancy between his Monday morning statement that there had been no settlements and his Monday evening statement that there had been one settlement, and he replies with a semantics argument: The word 'settlement' suggested to me some sort of legal settlement, and as I recalled what happened 12 years ago, I recalled an agreement. I wasn't thinking legal settlement. And so the words have been flyspecked, and I do recall an agreement.
He adds that in addition to the height thing that he described to van Susteren on Monday, the complaint one woman filed against him included a couple of other things ... that I found absolutely ridiculous. He says he has forgotten what the specific accusations were because they're ridiculous.
Finally, he claims that Politico dredged up the story just to derail his campaign while he is high in the polls. Meade asks him what he would like to say to his accusers, and he replies, Why are you bring it up now? Obviously someone is encouraging them to bring it up now because I'm doing so well in this Republican nomination. ... Secondly, are you being used to try and help paint a cloud and help sabotage my candidacy? That's all I would say.
In a separate interview with Fox News' Charles Krauthammer, Cain says he thinks he is being attacked because of his race, as he predicted months earlier when he said he might be subject to a high-tech lynching. He admits, though, that he doesn't have any evidence to support that conclusion.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that one of the settlements totaled $35,000, or a full year's pay, which Cain's detractors note is a large sum to pay out if the allegations were found to be baseless.
Wednesday, Nov. 2
A third woman tells The Associated Press that she considered filing a sexual harassment complaint against Cain when she worked under him at the National Restaurant Association. She claims that he made sexually suggestive comments and gestures and that he once invited her back to his apartment. The Associated Press reports that Cain told her that he had confided to colleagues how attractive she was and invited her to his corporate apartment outside work. She says she decided not to file a complaint because she began to see Cain less frequently, but she would have complained if the other two women hadn't.
Also on Wednesday, Republican political consultant tells KTOK, an Oklahoma City radio station, that he personally witnessed Cain sexually harassing one of the two women who received settlements. The consultant, Chris Wilson, says that one incident took place at a company dinner at a restaurant in Crystal City, Va., and everybody was aware of it. He implies that Cain harassed the woman on more than one occasion, saying, I was around a couple of times when this happened, and anyone who was involved with the N.R.A. at the time knew that this was going to come up. He refuses to go into detail but says that if the woman goes public, I think it'll be the end of his campaign.
A spokesman for Cain's campaign denies the new allegations -- both The Associated Press report about a third woman and Wilson's statements to KTOK -- and says they are part of an appalling smear campaign by inside-the-Beltway media. Meanwhile, word gets out that Cain is accusing an adviser to one of his Republican opponents, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, of leaking the original allegations to Politico. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Cain says the only person he told about the allegations, aside from his wife, was Curt Anderson, who advised his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. He says the timing is suspicious, noting that Anderson joined the Perry campaign a week before Politico published its investigation. Perry's campaign denies any involvement.
Thursday, Nov. 3
In a follow-up to The New York Times' report on Tuesday that one of the accusers received a $35,000 settlement, Politico reports that the other accuser received $45,000 -- significantly more than the two or three months' pay Cain had estimated in his interview with Greta van Susteren on Monday. Cain does not respond directly to this new information, but he and his campaign officials continue to accuse the media of orchestrating a smear campaign.
Friday, Nov. 4
The New York Times publishes more information on the woman who reportedly received a $35,000 settlement. According to The Times, the woman filed her complaint after going out drinking with Cain and some young colleagues and fending off sexual advances, including an invitation to go home with him. This is not the same woman whose height Cain compared to his wife's, and it is unclear whether it is the woman whom Chris Wilson saw Cain harassing at a Crystal City restaurant.
Also on Friday, Cain's chief of staff, Mark Block, blasts Politico in an interview with Fox News' Martha McCallum, saying that this is the last time he will discuss the allegations. We're not going to play by the rules that the media has established, Block says. The fact of the matter -- the Politico article, if it was held up to the same standards of the code of ethics for journalism, the people involved with that would be fired. The media this week has been a cesspool, and we're not going to swim in that cesspool anymore. He also says that Cain is considering a lawsuit against Politico.
Monday, Nov. 7
A fourth woman, Sharon Bialek, comes out to accuse Cain of sexual harassment, and she is the first to give her name and to tell her story in detail. Bialek, a registered Republican who worked at the Education Foundation of the National Restaurant Association for nine years before losing her job in 1997, said she greatly admired Cain when she first met him at a restaurant association convention in Chicago in 1997. When she lost her job a month later, she asked Cain for help finding another job with the organization. She says they met for dinner in Washington, D.C., and he drove her to the National Restaurant Association headquarters before reaching up her skirt, trying to touch her genitalia, and pulling her head toward his crotch. She says that when she told him to stop, he said, You want a job, right?
Cain's campaign denies these allegations as it has all others, releasing a statement saying, All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone. At this point, even some people who have supported Cain for the past week say that, now that there is a name and a face attached to the allegations, Cain needs to address them more directly.
In the evening, Cain announces that he will hold a press conference in Phoenix on Tuesday at 3 p.m. local time (5 p.m. EST) to discuss Bialek's allegations, saying that he wants to tackle them head-on. The feelings that you have when you know that all of this is totally fabricated -- you go from anger, then you get disgusted, he tells ABC host Jimmy Kimmel. There's not an ounce of truth in all of these accusations.
Tuesday, Nov. 8
Bialek makes the rounds on the morning talk shows and responds to the Cain campaign's attempts to discredit her by bringing up her past bankruptcy filings. I have had bankruptcy, and it was after the death of my mother, to help my father pay for medical bills, and a custody battle, she says, according to The Associated Press. Like millions of other people out there, I was struggling.
She says she did not go public for the money and does not plan to sue Cain. I could have sold my story, but I didn't, she says. I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do. It's not about me. I'm not running for president. I wanted to give him a platform to come clean, to tell the truth.
Meanwhile, voters await Cain's afternoon press conference to see how the saga will unfold.