Former presidential hopeful Cain dies
Complications from COVID-19 listed as cause
ATLANTA — 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 account 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, on June 20. Cain had been co-chair of Black Voices for Trump.
A photo taken at the rally showed Cain, without a mask, sitting closely to other people who also were not wearing any face coverings. A statement on his Twitter account said he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 29 and was hospitalized July 1 because his symptoms were serious.
“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 account.
Trump offered his condolences in a tweet on Thursday in which he said he had also spoken by telephone to Cain’s family.
He later started his news conference at the White House with a mention of Cain’s death. “He was a very special person … and unfortunately he passed away from a thing called the China virus,” Trump said, using the moniker he often ascribes to the new coronavirus, which was first detected in China.
He added, “We send out prayers to Herman’s great wife, Gloria … And I have to say, America grieves for all of the 150,000 Americans that had their lives taken by this horrible, invisible enemy.”
Cain, who had hoped to become the first Black politician 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 1996-99. 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, but polls conducted in the weeks afterward showed his popularity slipping 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.
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?”