Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain embraced the controversial Koch brothers at a speech at an Americans for Prosperity (AFP) conference Friday, telling a cheering crowd: "I am the Koch brothers' brother from another mother."
Cain made the comments in response to a New York Times story Friday discussing Cain and his campaign manager Mark Block's ties to Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group co-founded and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the wealthy businessmen who've become targets of the left for their political activity.
Block led the Wisconsin branch of AFP, and Cain and many of his top staffers have worked for the group. (Cain spearheaded its "Prosperity Expansion Project" in 2005.) An outside lawyer is examining whether Prosperity USA, a tax-exempt group founded by Block and reportedly partially funded by AFP groups, illegally subsidized Cain's presidential run.
In his remarks Friday, Cain referenced the Times story, saying the newspaper "tries to make a case of how close the Koch brothers and I are."
"I'm proud to know the Koch brothers," he said. He then seemed to somewhat play down his ties to them, suggesting the newspaper falsely implied he went skiing and golfing with the brothers, before embracing them even more strongly.
"This may be a breaking news alert for the media: I am the Koch brothers' brother from another mother," Cain said to enthusiastic applause. "Yes. I'm their brother from another mother. And proud of it. You see the reason that I'm running for president is that I want to unite the United States of America, not divide it."
Last month, Cain told CNN: "I know the Koch brothers. I don't have a close relationship, but I know them and respect them, and they know me and respect me."
Cain did not address the sexual harassment allegations that have engulfed his campaign this week in his remarks, which other than the Koch brothers comments largely matched his standard stump speech. He received a far more enthusiastic reception from the crowd at the conference than Mitt Romney, who spoke before Cain took the stage.
At the start of his remarks, Cain quipped: "Before I get started, I want to know whose teleprompters these are because I don't need them." The crowd applauded wildly; criticism of President Obama for using teleprompters is popular in conservative circles. But Cain's comments this time were a (possibly inadvertent) reference to Romney, who had read from the teleprompters during his remarks.