By Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of a major pizza chain who went on to become an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, has died of complications from the coronavirus. He was 74.
A post on Cain’s Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -0.04% account on Thursday announced the death. Cain had been ill with the virus for several weeks. It’s not clear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalized less than two weeks after attending Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June. Cain had been co-chair of Black Voices for Trump.
“We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” read an article posted on the Twitter account. “He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. We all prayed that the initial meds they gave him would get his breathing back to normal, but it became clear pretty quickly that he was in for a battle.”
Cain, who had hoped to become the first Black to win the GOP nomination, was initially considered a long-shot candidate. His bid was propelled forward in September 2011 when he won a straw poll vote in Florida, instantly becoming an alternative candidate for Republican voters concerned that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was not conservative enough.
But Cain struggled to respond to accusations that he had sexually harassed several women and — in a video that went viral on the Internet — rambled uncomfortably when asked whether he supported or opposed President Barack Obama’s policies in Libya. There were also gaffes on abortion and torture that led Cain’s critics to question whether he was ready for the White House.
Just as Cain started surging in the polls, Politico reported that the National Restaurant Association paid settlements to two former employees who claimed Cain sexually harassed them while he was CEO and president of the lobbying group from 1996 to 1999. Another woman, Sharon Bialek, said that Cain, an acquaintance, groped her in a car in July 1997 after they’d had dinner in Washington. Bialek, who was then unemployed, said she had contacted Cain seeking job advice.
Cain said he could not remember Bialek and denied sexually harassing anyone.
“I don’t even know who this woman is,” Cain said during a news conference in Arizona that he called to quell the controversy. “I tried to remember if I recognized her and I didn’t.”
Polls in the weeks afterward showed Cain’s popularity had slipped considerably.
Cain honed his speaking skills in the corporate world, then hosted a radio talk show in Atlanta that introduced his political views and up-by-the-bootstraps life story to many Tea Party supporters and other conservatives.
But he repeatedly fumbled under the scrutiny that follows a front-runner for the presidency. He gave a rambling response when asked by the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel whether he supported or opposed Obama’s policies in Libya. The videotaped interview went viral on the internet.
He first ventured into national politics in 1994 when he publicly challenged President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, on his proposal to force employers to buy health insurance for their employees. “For many, many businesses like mine, the cost of your plan is simply a cost that will cause us to eliminate jobs,” Cain told Clinton. “What will I tell those people whose jobs I will have to eliminate?”
Afterward, the restaurant industry used Cain as a spokesman as it campaigned against Clinton’s plan, which ultimately failed.
Cain served as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City from 1992 to 1996. His colleagues said they believed he left the nonpartisan board so he could be more active politically.
“We were already among ourselves as directors having discussions and kidding him about running for president,” said Jo Marie Dancik, who served on the board with Cain. “We were serious. He laughed it off at that point. I think it was probably the first time he had every really considered.”