Third Woman Comes Forward; Accuses Herman Cain of Harassment

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WASHINGTON — A third former employee considered filing a workplace complaint against Herman Cain over what she considered aggressive and unwanted behavior when she and Cain, now a Republican presidential candidate, worked together during the late 1990s, the woman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. She said the behavior included a private invitation to his corporate apartment. [Read: Herman Cain Bungles Scandal Management 101.]

The woman said he made sexually suggestive remarks or gestures about the same time that two co-workers had settled separate harassment complaints against Cain, who was then the head of the National Restaurant Association.

She did not file a formal complaint because she began having fewer interactions with Cain, she said. Afterward, she learned that a co-worker — one of the two women whose accusations have rocked Cain's campaign this week — had already done so. She said she would have had to file if they hadn't. [Read: GOP Voters Remain Wild Card in Herman Cain Sexual Harassment Scandal.]

The woman spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying she feared retaliation. She was located and approached by the AP as part of its investigation into harassment complaints against Cain that were disclosed in recent days and have thrown his presidential campaign into turmoil. She said she was reluctant to describe the encounters she had with Cain when they worked together at the Washington-based restaurant trade group.

The employee described in conversations with the AP over several days situations in which she said Cain told her that he had confided to colleagues how attractive she was and invited her to his corporate apartment outside work.

His actions "were inappropriate, and it made me feel uncomfortable," she said.

Asked for comment about the accusations, including the most recent, Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon said, "Mr. Cain has said over the past two days at public events that we could see other baseless allegations made against him as this appalling smear campaign continues." Gordon added, "He has never acted in the way alleged by inside-the-Beltway media, and his distinguished record over 40 years spent climbing the corporate ladder speaks for itself."

The AP confirmed that the employee worked at the restaurant association with Cain during the period in question, that she has no party affiliation in her voter registration in the past decade and is not identified as a donor in federal campaigns or local political campaigns. Records show she was registered as a Democrat at one point previously. [Check out our editorial cartoons on the GOP.]

Though trying to project an image of campaign business as usual, Cain appeared frazzled at times Wednesday and couldn't escape the questions that have dogged him since a published report Sunday night that at least two women had complained about his behavior while at the restaurant association and had been given financial settlements. The controversy has arisen two months before the leadoff Iowa caucuses and as polls show Cain at the head of the GOP field alongside former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

As the day began, Cain said, "There are factions that are trying to destroy me personally, as well as this campaign." He didn't say to whom he was referring, but he said "the voice of the people" is stronger.

Cain was supposed to take questions after a speech to health care professionals, but he ultimately refused and left the hotel through a back door.

"I'm here to visit with these doctors, and that's what I'm going to talk about, so don't even bother asking me all of these other questions that you all are curious about, OK? Don't even bother," a testy Cain told a throng of reporters.

When pressed about the week's previous allegations, Cain raised his voice and said "What did I say? Excuse me. Excuse me!" as hotel security led him through a hallway jammed with journalists in a Washington suburb. "What part of 'no' don't people understand?"

Meanwhile, another of Cain's accusers appeared increasingly reluctant to speak publicly, though her lawyer took the first steps for her to do so. Attorney Joel P. Bennett contacted the association on Wednesday and asked it to release his client from the confidentiality arrangement she had agreed to so that she could talk openly about her allegations and respond to Cain's assertion that her complaints were "totally baseless and totally false."