Cain: Investigation into past misconduct is a "witch hunt"

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 31: Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain delivers remarks at The National Press Club October 31, 2011 in Washington, DC. Cain has denied accusations made in a report of sexual harassment while he was president of the National Restaurant Association. Cain is tied with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at the top of the Des Moines Register's recent survey of likely caucus-goers in Iowa.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Herman Cain on Monday pushed back against allegations he had inappropriate interactions with two female employees, calling the investigation into those charges a "witch hunt."

Cain, in a question and answer session at the National Press Club Monday, again denied allegations - first reported by Politico Sunday night - that in the 1990s, when he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association, he sexually harassed two female employees who were later paid not to discuss their charges in public.

The candidate attributed the accusations to his rising popularity in the polls, but declined to say whether or not he thought his political rivals had helped propagate the story.

"I told you this bull's eye on my back has gotten bigger," Cain said. But, he added, "We have no idea the source of this witch hunt."

"We're not going to chase anonymous sources when there's no basis for the accusation," he said.

Cain said he would not ask the National Restaurant Association to release the records in order to "shoot down" the charges and prove his innocence.

"No, there's nothing to shoot down," Cain said. "And secondly, the policies of the Restaurant Association is not to divulge that information.... There's nothing else there to dig up."

He also pointed to a portion of the Politico article citing three people who had been affiliated with the National Restaurant Association's board of directors at the time who said they had been unaware of any sexual misconduct on Cain's part.

"I would draw your attention to the three people mentioned near the end of the article that were at the Restaurant Association as chairman, past chairman, and incoming chairman of the board, who would have known about this if it had turned out in fact to be a charge with some validity," Cain said. "But it was not. And so, as a result, I have never sexually harassed anyone, and those accusations are totally false."

At least one news organization has corroborated Politico's report that the National Restaurant Association paid a cash settlement to a woman who complained of Cain's conduct.