ATLANTA (AP) — Republican candidate Herman Cain declared “Here we go again” as he faced the latest crisis in his presidential campaign: an accusation of a 13-year extramarital affair with an Atlanta businesswoman.
On Monday, Ginger White said in an interview with Fox 5 Atlanta that her affair with Cain ended not long before the former businessman from Georgia announced his candidacy for the White House.
“It was fun,” said White, 46, as she described how Cain had bought her plane tickets for a rendezvous in Palm Springs, Calif. “It was something that took me away from my sort of humdrum life at the time. And it was exciting.”
Cain went on television to deny White’s claims even before the report aired. It was a faster and more deliberate response than he had managed when it was reported that three women alleged he had sexually harassed or groped them when he was the president of the National Restaurant Association in the mid- to late 1990s. The trade group paid settlements to two women who had worked there.
“Here we go again,” Cain told CNN as he denied White’s accusation. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Cain avoided reporters and their questions when he attended a fundraising event Monday night in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. That may be more difficult Tuesday, when he is scheduled to speak to students at Hillsdale College in Michigan, or Wednesday, when he is scheduled to begin a bus tour through Ohio.
As some conservative Republicans sought an alternative to Mitt Romney, Cain surged in the polls while pushing his 9-9-9 tax plan and providing tough criticism of President Barack Obama during televised debates.
But as the harassment stories surfaced, Cain stumbled in explaining his views about U.S. policy toward Libya and other foreign policy issues, creating an opening for rival Newt Gingrich to assert himself as a more reliable, seasoned politician to challenge Romney and even Obama. Cain fell in the polls and Gingrich began to rise.
Although Cain said Monday there had been no affair with White, his lawyer issued a public statement that included no such denial and suggested that the media — and the public — had no business snooping into the details of consensual conduct between adults.
After the initial report and Cain’s denial, White told The Associated Press that Cain was not being truthful when he said there had been no affair.
“That would be false,” White said. “What I said in the interview was true.”
At her apartment in Dunwoody, Ga., White declined to elaborate on her statements during a brief interview with the AP. “I can’t make any comment on this,” she said. “We’re trying to be slightly sensitive.”
In its report, Fox 5 Atlanta said White had Cain’s name in her cell phone contacts, and when its reporter sent a text message to the number, Cain called right back.
“He told us he knew ‘Ginger White’ but said these are more false allegations,” the station reported. Cain said White had his number because he was trying to help her financially.
In a written statement released immediately after the story aired, Cain’s campaign said detractors were trying to “derail the Cain Train with more accusations of past events that never happened.”
In his initial denial, Cain vowed to remain in the presidential race as long as he has the support of his wife, with whom he said he had discussed the most recent allegation.
In her interview, White said she decided to come forward after seeing Cain attack his other accusers in an appearance on television.
“It bothered me that they were being demonized, sort of, and being treated as if they were automatically lying, and the burden of proof was on them,” she said. “I felt bad for them.”
White told the Atlanta TV station she expects to be scrutinized by Cain and the media.
Georgia court records show a series of judgments against White for not paying rent in Atlanta-area apartments, including one filed about two weeks ago.
In the interview, she said she first met Cain in the late 1990s in Louisville, Ky., when he was president of the National Restaurant Association. They had drinks and he invited her to his hotel room, she recalled.
She quoted Cain as telling her, “You’re beautiful to me and I would love for us to continue this friendship,” then produced his personal calendar and invited her to meet him in Palm Springs.
White has been accused of lying before. A former business partner, Kimberly Vay, filed a libel suit as part of a larger business dispute with White. Vay’s attorney, Kurt Martin, said a judge sided with Vay after White failed to respond to the suit. Martin said a jury must still decide whether to award damages.
White’s attorney, Edward Buckley, acknowledged the libel suit. He said White thought the libel claim had been settled as part of a larger settlement.
Jackson reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Greg Bluestein in Dunwoody, Ga., and researcher Barbara Sambriski in New York contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.