Herman Cain
Just as the sexual harassment allegations against him were beginning to fade, Herman Cain was faced on Monday with a new scandal when a Georgia businesswoman claimed to have had a 13-year affair with him -- and now several news outlets are reporting that he is "reassessing" whether to stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Reuters

One of the two former National Restaurant Association employees who filed sexual harassment complaints against Herman Cain received a $45,000 settlement, substantially more than the two or three months' pay Cain recalled, Politico reported on Thursday.

The second employee received a $35,000 settlement, or a full year's pay, The New York Times reported earlier this week.

These numbers are the latest challenges to the assertions Cain has made since Politico published its investigation into the late-1990s allegations on Sunday.

Contradictory Statements

In the four days since, Cain has made a series of contradictory statements about the allegations, each time adding a little bit more to what he claims happened.

On Monday morning, he said he had no recollection of any sexual harassment settlement during his time as CEO of the National Restaurant Association from 1996 to 1999.

On Monday afternoon, in an interview with Fox News' Greta van Susteren, he said he did recall a settlement over baseless accusations, and that it might have been for two months' salary. Later in the interview, he upped that to three months, just vaguely trying to recall it.

On Tuesday, he told CNN that the settlement might actually have been in the vicinity of three to six months' severance pay.

If the Politico and New York Times reports are correct, the settlements (plural, though Cain has only acknowledged one) were more along the lines of a year's severance pay. Cain had not commented on those reports as of 3 p.m. on Thursday.

The fallout worsened on Wednesday when a third former National Restaurant Association employee came forward to allege that Cain had sexually harassed her. She said she had considered lodging a formal complaint after Cain allegedly made sexually suggestive remarks and invited her back to his corporate apartment, but she decided against it and eventually left the organization.

Impact on Campaign

It is too soon to say how the allegations will affect Cain's campaign, which has topped the polls for more than a month now. But the consensus seems to be that if it does hurt him, it will be more because of his response to the Politico story than because of the story itself.

Cain has changed his recollections multiple times since the story broke. At first, he said he didn't remember anything; then, bit by bit, he recalled more. He said that the allegations were so ridiculous that he had simply put them out of his mind, and that once he started thinking about it, he was able to pull up more details.

But on Wednesday, in accusing opponent Rick Perry's campaign of leaking the story to Politico, Cain said that he had only told it in full to one person: Curt Anderson, who advised his 2004 Senate campaign and is now working as an adviser to Perry.

We discussed opposition research on me. It was a typical campaign conversation, Cain said. I told him that there was only one case, one set of charges, one woman while I was at the National Restaurant Association. Those charges were baseless, but I thought he needed to know about them.

That sparked more suspicion: if he understood in 2004 that the charges could become a big enough issue for his campaign adviser to need to know about them, he clearly had not forgotten that a settlement existed or stricken the incidents from his mind because they were so ridiculous.

Numerous political strategists and public relations experts have criticized Cain's response.

The truth will come out, so tell it, Ronn Torossian, the CEO of 5W Public Relations, said in an open letter to Cain. The accusations may indeed be false, but if agreements were signed, something happened, even if it wasn't harassment. Get out in front of the story and tell the truth -- exactly what you know and all of what you know -- to defuse reporters and take the wind out of their sails. You won't be able to outwork this issue or change the topic.

Yet it seems that is still what Cain is trying to do.