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Woman says she and Cain had 13-year affair; Cain denies accusation

By Tom Watkins, CNN
updated 8:37 AM EST, Tue November 29, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Accuser says the relationship was sexual, TV station reports
  • "I was aware that he was married," the woman tells a TV station
  • Cain says he did not have an affair with the woman
  • "Some things are fair game and some things aren't," his lawyer says

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- An Atlanta businesswoman has accused GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain of having had an affair with her that lasted nearly 14 years, a claim the candidate flatly denied Monday.

"I was aware that he was married, and I was also aware that I was involved in a very inappropriate situation -- relationship," Ginger White told Atlanta television station WAGA.

White also confirmed to CNN affiliate WSB that she had a sexual relationship with Cain, countering Cain's claims that the relationship was just a friendship

"Absolutely," White said when asked by the affiliate if the relationship was sexual. "I can't imagine him confirming. It's the name of the game I guess."

White told WAGA the affair ended about eight months ago, as Cain prepared to announce his presidential bid. But she pointed to mobile-phone records she said showed Cain was calling her as late as September, including one as early as 4:26 a.m.

WAGA said that when it sent a text message to the number she identified as Cain's, the candidate called back and acknowledged he knew White but had been trying to help her financially.

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Cain, who lives in suburban Atlanta, upstaged the report by going on CNN a few minutes before the station broadcast its interview with White.

He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" that her assertion was coming and would be false.

"It is someone that I know who is an acquaintance that I thought was a friend," Cain said. But he added, "I did not have an affair."

"I acknowledge that I knew the woman," he said. "I acknowledge that I have known her for about that period of time. But the accusation that I had a 13-year affair with her, no."

He said his wife's immediate reaction upon hearing of the accusation was, "Here we go again." And he said he had no plans to drop out of the race -- "Not as long as my wife is behind me and as long as my wife believes I should stay in this race."

In a written statement issued after the interview aired, he said, "I will not fight false claims as it is not what America needs or wants."

"The American public is tired of dirty politics and smear tactics as evident of their tremendous outpouring of support for me, my family and my campaign this past month," he said. "I am running for president of the United States of America, and the reality is that there are individuals out there that favor the status quo of higher taxes, more government and political cronyism and they are afraid of a Cain presidency."

White's emergence comes after two other women came forward in early November to accuse Cain of sexually harassing them while he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Cain has denied all accusations against him, but he has slipped in published polls since the allegations first surfaced.

White said she was never harassed or poorly treated by Cain, whom she described as "very much confident, and very much sure of himself, very arrogant -- in a playful, sometimes, way."

She said he took her to luxury hotels and flew her to cities where he had speaking engagements.

"He made it very intriguing," White said in the interview. "It was fun. It was something that took me away from my sort-of humdrum life at the time, and it was exciting."

In a statement to WAGA, Cain attorney Lin Wood said reporters had no business asking about the allegation.

"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," he said. "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," Wood said. "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."

He did not address White's assertion directly, and said Cain "has no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media.

"Some things are fair game, and some aren't," Wood told CNN in a telephone interview, adding that this was one that was off-limits. "You've got to draw the line somewhere."

White told WAGA that she was a reluctant accuser who decided to go public only after her name was circulated among reporters. But she also said she was upset by Cain's responses to the sexual harassment allegations from two women who have been identified publicly.

"It bothered me that they were being demonized, sort of, or were being treated as if they were automatically lying and the burden of proof is on them," White said.

WAGA said it and other news organizations had received a tip from someone who knew White, alleging she had had an affair with Cain.

"I wanted to come out and give my side before it was thrown out there and made to be something, you know, filthy, which some people will look at this and say, that's exactly what it is," White told the station.

She said their on-again, off-again relationship allegedly began in Louisville, Kentucky, in the late 1990s, when Cain gave a National Restaurant Association presentation to a group that included White. Afterward, the two shared drinks and Cain invited her back to his hotel room, where he pulled out a calendar and invited her to meet him in Palm Springs, California, she said.

WAGA said White's work history includes a 2001 sexual harassment claim against an employer that was settled, a 23-year-old bankruptcy in Kentucky and several evictions over the past six years. A former business partner accused her of stalking her with repeated e-mails and texts in a case that was ultimately dismissed, followed by a libel suit White lost because she failed to respond to it, WAGA said.

But White's attorney, Edward Buckley, told CNN's "John King USA" that his client has no apparent financial motive for making the accusation and "everything to lose."

"To tell you candidly, I don't know if she is employed or not, because she was kind of on the ropes because of all this stuff," Buckley said. "The media called her employer before this story came out, and it made it very difficult for her in the workplace."

And prominent feminist attorney Gloria Allred, who represents one of the women who accused Cain of harassing them, said White's financial troubles mean "zero, zip, nada."

"There are millions of women in this country and millions of men as well having financial problems," she told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight." "The fact that she's had them in the past does not bear on whether or not she's credible on this issue."

CNN Correspondent David Mattingly contributed to this report.

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