Herman Cain's Campaign Says It Knew of Sexual Harassment Charges

Herman Cain's campaign didn't think the sexual harassment allegations against their candidate would play a role in the primary.

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In this Friday, June 17, 2011 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Appearing on "Fox News Sunday" on Sunday, July 17, 2011, Cain said that communities have a right to ban Islamic mosques. Cain said his view doesn't amount to religious discrimination because he says Muslims are trying to inject Shariah law into the U.S.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—As Herman Cain's improbable presidential campaign imploded a year ago over allegations of sexual harassment when he was head of the National Restaurant Association, one question that lingered was why his team wasn't better prepared to deal with the charges. Did they not know what was in his past? They did, it turns out, they just didn't think it would matter.

"We were very aware of the National Restaurant Association situation," Mark Block, Cain's chief of staff, said last week at a campaign symposium sponsored by the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "We knew about it but there was nothing there." He may not have known everything about it: At the time Block insisted he was unaware that the allegations involved a cash settlement.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Block's one regret, he said, was that they did not respond more forcefully on the allegations from the start. And if they had, and Cain had stayed in? Block seems to think the former pizza magnate would have swept to the nomination.

When the Washington Post's Dan Balz was introducing him and suggested that, "It is hard to imagine that there was a sense in the Cain campaign that Herman Cain was going to become the Republican nominee," Block responded with a one word retort: "Bullshit!"

He went on to describe their strategy as having been modeled after Barack Obama's 2008 strategy. "We thought that we would win Iowa, and New Hampshire, and Florida, and [South Carolina] and I think if he would have stayed in the race he would have won those," he said, to the amazement of most in the room.

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