ATLANTA (AP) — Embattled presidential candidate Herman Cain told aides Tuesday that he's reassessing his campaign a day after an Atlanta businesswoman alleged a 13-year extramarital affair with the Republican.
Cain has denied the affair as well as several other accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior that have dogged his candidacy over the past month. Throughout it all, Cain has repeatedly vowed to stay in the race. Even so, he told senior staff in a mid-morning conference call lasting roughly 10 minutes that all public events will go forward this week but he will review the campaign's strategy over the next several days.
One participant on the call, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the conversation, said that as part of that assessment, Cain's campaign is examining the impact of the newest allegations. This person described the tone as positive but also said there was some uncertainty coming from Cain.
"He said obviously it's taken an emotional toll on his family, but he's moving ahead with the campaign," Steve Grubbs, Cain's Iowa campaign chairman and another person on the call, told The Associated Press. "He said that they will be reassessing the campaign," including how to move forward given that the allegations have damaged his fundraising.
Grubbs added: "He said this lady was a friend, someone he thought was a friend, that he was trying to help out financially and had been a friend for some period of time. But that nothing inappropriate occurred."
Publicly, Cain sought to project an aura of campaign business as usual even as his team worked behind the scenes to assess the fallout of the latest allegation. It came just five weeks before the Iowa caucuses that kick off the state-by-state voting process for the GOP nomination. Cain was set to deliver, as planned, a foreign policy speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan later Tuesday.
"Yes," said J.D. Gordon, Cain's spokesman, when asked early Tuesday whether Cain is definitely staying in the race.
After the conference call, Cain attorney Linn Wood told AP: "Any report that Mr. Cain has decided to withdraw his candidacy is inaccurate."
"I think they are assessing the situation, just as I would expect the campaign to do or any prudent business person to do," said Wood. He added that he would hate to see what he described as false accusations drive Cain out of the race for the presidency.
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 Cain buying 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 flatly deny White's claims even before the report aired.
"Here we go again," Cain told CNN as he denied White's accusation. "I didn't do anything wrong."
He said in the interview that he would not abandon his bid in light of the allegations, "as long as my wife is behind me and as long as my wife believes I should stay in this race."
Wood, however, issued a public statement that included no such denial of the affair and suggested that the media — and the public — had no business snooping into the details of consensual conduct between adults.
Cain's response was faster and more deliberate 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.
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 allegations 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.
In a statement released immediately after the Fox 5 Atlanta story aired, Cain's campaign said detractors were trying to "derail the Cain Train with more accusations of past events that never happened."
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."
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.