Just as the bizarre performance-art experiment known as Herman Cain was beginning to fade away into oblivion, Fox's Atlanta station has aired an interview with Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White, who claims to have had a "thirteen-year-long affair" with the former pizza-chain CEO. White says that she met Cain when he gave a presentation as head of the National Restaurant Association, and she was impressed. The two hit it off, and for years afterward, Cain would fly her out to his speaking engagements around the country, put her up at hotels, and lavish her with presents. White knew that what they were doing was wrong, but, she says, "It was fun. It was something that took me away from my humdrum life at the time. And it was exciting.”
White says that the affair ended eight months ago, as Cain began his presidential run, but that contact between the two only ended in September. She has evidence, too, although not of the smoking gun variety:
She showed us some of her cell phone bills that included 61 phone calls or text messages to or from a number starting with 678. She says it is Herman Cain's private cell phone. The calls were made during four different months-- calls or texts made as early as 4:26 in the early morning, and as late as 7:52 at night. The latest were in September of this year.
“We've never worked together,” said White. “And I can't imagine someone phoning or texting me for the last two and a half years, just because.”
We texted the number and Herman Cain called us back. He told us he "knew Ginger White" but said these are "more false allegations." He said she had his number because he was "trying to help her financially.”
Oddly-timed phone calls notwithstanding, Cain's supporters will likely question White's motivations: According to Fox 5 Atlanta, "Ms. White says she has been unemployed, and she is a single mom with two kids struggling to make ends meet."
Cain's response to the allegations has been characteristically ham-handed. Before White's interview even aired, Cain denied having an affair to CNN's Wolf Blitzer (or "Blitz," as Cain likes to call him).
But at the same time, Cain's high-profile lawyer, Lin Wood, released a statement to Fox 5 Atlanta insisting that Cain's private sexual life was nobody's business and that Cain wouldn't discuss it:
Mr. Cain has been informed today that your television station plans to broadcast a story this evening in which a female will make an accusation that she engaged in a 13-year long physical relationship with Mr. Cain. This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace – this is not an accusation of an assault - which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate.Mr. Cain has alerted his wife to this new accusation and discussed it with her. He has no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so even if his principled position is viewed unfavorably by members of the media."
Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults - a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door.
Clearly, Cain and Wood hadn't coordinated. (In fact, it seems Cain decided on the spot to discuss the allegations with CNN.) But yet another clumsy response is the least of Cain's problems. White represents the fifth woman to accuse Cain of sexual misdeeds. And she might not even be the last — Cain suggested today that "an infinite number of people" could yet come forward. That would be one enormous conspiracy.
This post has been updated and rewritten with additional information.