Herman Cain, the Republican presidential candidate, has been accused of inappropriate behavior toward women in 1990s.

Cain's campaign has denied allegations that he was twice accused of sexual harassment while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. The Cain campaign put out a statement describing the account as unsubstantiated personal attacks and thinly sourced allegations.

The allegations come as Cain surges into the front ranks of the Republican presidential field despite never having held elected office.

His campaign disputed a Politico report that said Cain had been accused of sexually suggestive behavior toward at least two female employees.

The report said the women signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them five-figure financial payouts to leave the association and barred them from discussing their departures. Neither woman was identified. Politico's detailed reporting stopped short of describing the incidents as sexual harassment and instead described them as episodes that left the women upset and offended.

Inside-the-Beltway media have begun to launch unsubstantiated personal attacks on Cain, spokesman J.D. Gordon said in a written statement.

Cain led a buyout of Godfather's Pizza and helped turn around the ailing chain before becoming chief executive of the National Restaurant Association from 1996 to 1999. The former pizza company executive has been pointing to his long record in business to argue that he has the credentials needed to be president during a time of economic distress.