Cain’s Consent

11.28.11

Cain’s ‘Consensual’ Conduct with Accuser

Despite lawyer’s admission, candidate denies Atlanta woman’s account of 13-year extramarital affair.

Herman Cain, whose campaign was already fading, may have reached the tipping point.

After denying four separate accusations of sexual harassment, Cain found himself late Monday facing an account by an Atlanta businesswoman of a 13-year extramarital affair—and she has phone records to back up her claim. While Cain is denying the latest allegations, his lawyer, Lin Wood, offered comments that practically amounted to a confirmation:

“This appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults—a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life,” Wood said.

Um, did Wood sleep through the Clinton administration?

Are we supposed to believe that if Cain cheated on his wife, Gloria, for more than a decade—the same wife he sent onto Greta Van Susteren’s show to stand by her man—that isn’t relevant information for voters? After all, Newt Gingrich has gotten hammered for his serial adulteries, for which he has sought forgiveness.

The woman, Ginger White, gave an on-camera account to WAGA, the Fox affiliate in Atlanta, where Cain lives. “It was pretty simple,” White said. “It wasn’t complicated. I was aware that he was married. And I was also aware I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship.” She said it was “fun” and “exciting” and took her away form her “humdrum life.”

The physical relationship ended eight months ago, White says—around the time Cain was jumping into the White House race. She showed WAGA cellphone records with 61 calls or texts from an Atlanta-area number (some as early as 4:26 a.m.) starting with area code 678—and Cain called back when a reporter sent him a text message at that number.

What’s more, Cain told the station he had helped White financially—as a friend—while she says he lavished gifts upon her.

White said she’s a single, unemployed mother with two children, and she has a tangled legal history—including a bankruptcy in 1989--that could open her up to counterattack. According to WAGA, she filed a sexual harassment complaint against a temp agency in 2001 and the case was settled the following year. White has had several eviction notices in Georgia in the last four years, according to the station, and a former business partner once sought a protective order against her for stalking. The ex-partner won a libel suit against her when White never responded, the station says.

I don’t know why White is surfacing now. Cain acknowledged knowing White, telling CNN she was an “acquaintance” he had tried to help. Cain said “no, it was not” an affair, that “I don’t have anything to hide,” and that he would not drop out of the race.

“My wife’s reaction was very similar to mine: here we go again,” Cain said on the Situation Room. But it’s the voters’ reaction that counts.

Here’s why it matters: Cain keeps insisting that the other women’s accusations are wrong—entirely made up, in the case of Sharon Bialek, who says Cain tried to grope her in a car in the late 1990s when she was asking for a job. If what White is saying is true, doesn’t it cast serious doubt on all of Cain’s other denials? And wouldn’t that, morality aside, leave him with a huge credibility gap?

Yes, Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992 after Gennifer Flowers accused him of a 12-year affair, and years later admitted to at least some sexual contact with the former lounge singer. And there were other “bimbo eruptions,” as a top aide at the time described them. But Clinton was a veteran governor, not a former pizza executive and political neophyte.

The charismatic Cain has had an improbable run as a leading Republican candidate, despite the harassment allegations and a series of incidents, most recently involving Libya, in which he didn’t appear to know the issues. But Gingrich’s surge in the polls has much to do with Cain losing support. If Ginger White has any documentation of the alleged affair, Herman Cain’s brief moment in the political sun is over.