WASHINGTON â€” Suddenly beset by allegations of sexual harassment, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain on Monday labeled the accusations a â€œwitch huntâ€ and insisted that they were â€œtotally false.â€
â€œIn all my over 40 years of business experience, I have never sexually harassed anyone,â€ Cain said during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.
The story of the allegations surfaced Sunday night in Politico, a Capitol Hill newspaper, and underscored the topsy-turvy nature of the campaign.
Just the day before, a new poll in Iowa, site of the first Republican caucus on Jan. 3, put the former Godfatherâ€™s Pizza CEO atop the presidential field with 23 percent of the vote. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney followed at 22 percent.
But the latest story threatened to possibly slow Cainâ€™s momentum. According to Politico, in the 1990s, while Cain was chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association, two women accused him of sexually aggressive behavior.
Politico said that the women left the association after reaching financial settlements with the group. The association, a trade group for the restaurant industry, has refused to discuss the issue.
After several early, arms-length attempts by Cain and his campaign to respond to the allegations, he confronted the issue head-on Monday, first in a morning television interview on Fox News Channel, and then at the press club.