Herman Cain, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Godfather’s Pizza, says allegations that President Trump is a racist are unfounded. (Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Herman Cain, the insurgent 2012 candidate who defied expectations to briefly lead the Republican primary field in some polls and who electrified the Tea Party and presaged the rise of Donald Trump, is still as outspoken and passionate as ever. In an interview with Yahoo News, Cain scoffed at the allegation that Trump is a racist and suggested that his own experience as a presidential candidate gives him some insights into what Trump’s been through.
“I don’t think Donald Trump has a racist bone in his body. And you can quote me on that,” Cain told Yahoo News. “I have known him for many years. I have talked to people who work directly for him. The man is a businessman. How could he be a racist? His daughter married a person whose religious belief is Jewish. Good! He doesn’t go around making statements that are racist in nature. No, he says things where some people out there — especially people who don’t like him — try to spin it as being racist.”
That is certainly how Trump, who frequently calls himself “the least racist person you’ll ever meet,” sees himself. But amid his reported remarks about preferring immigrants from countries like Norway to those from Haiti or African nations, many news stories citing evidence to the contrary persist: his insistence that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in America, his seeming reluctance to disavow white supremacists, repeated allegations that his company discriminates against black people seeking to rent apartments in Trump buildings.
But Cain maintains that he never observed anything at Trump’s campaign events that would indicate that he harbors any animus for minorities.
“When he was campaigning, I spoke at three of his rallies. There were plenty of black people and Hispanic people there trying to help him get elected. I never saw him try to put anybody down. The people who don’t like him are trying to stick him with a racist label, which is not true,” Cain said. At a campaign rally in Atlanta, he vouched for Trump as a “shucky ducky” kind of candidate. Trump received 8 percent of votes by black people in 2016.
When asked about the infamous meeting during which Trump reportedly disparaged African countries as “shitholes,” Cain argued that the whole debacle is an example of how the media misconstrues the truth to fit the narrative they are trying to push.
“First, he denied saying that word. Two senators that were in the room didn’t hear him say that word. The head of homeland security said she didn’t hear him say that word,” Cain told Yahoo News. “And the only person who said that he said it was Sen. Dick Durbin. And then people have picked up the alleged saying of it as if he said it. Why can’t they believe him and four other people?”
It’s true that Trump has denied saying the word; Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., put out a statement claiming they could not recall him saying it; and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified the same before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pushed back against Trump’s immigration comments during the meeting and reportedly confirmed the off-color remarks to others.
Cain takes Trump at his word that he didn’t use this crass language, and argues Trump was discussing the conditions of those countries — not their people. Nevertheless, Cain said he understands that Trump’s behavior and rhetoric may be off-putting to some people.
“Yes, he has said some things maybe when he was using his Twitter account that may have been a little rough around the edges. I get that!” Cain said. “And there are certainly some that make some of us cringe a little bit. But I love the title of the book that came up recently written by Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie: ‘Let Trump Be Trump.’”
According to Cain, someone who puts aside Trump’s language and personality and just focuses on the results of his policies would see how great Trump’s first-year performance was. Cain said he would give it an A for two major reasons: He rolled back regulations and signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which he called “one of the biggest legislative achievements in 30 years.”
Though Cain still enjoys rock star receptions at conservative speaking events, it’s hard to overstate just how ubiquitous he was in 2011. In many ways, Cain was a precursor to the Trump phenomenon: a populist businessman with a larger-than-life personality who made headlines with nearly every utterance. According to the Pew Research Center, Cain was the most covered Republican presidential candidate of 2011.
Cain’s buoyant personality, pithy quips and businessman sensibilities were further bolstered by an inspiring biography. After a poor childhood in Atlanta, he studied mathematics at Morehouse College then computer science at Purdue University. During this time, Cain worked for the U.S. Navy, helping to design fire control systems. He applied his technical skills while working for Coca-Cola and then Pillsbury Company, before transitioning into business management. He became president and CEO of the struggling Godfather’s Pizza restaurant chain in 1986, and successfully turned the franchiser around, scaling back the number of restaurants and increasing sales at the remaining locations. His interests shifted toward politics, and he launched a failed Senate bid from Georgia in 2004 before his presidential run turned him into a political star.
But his journey to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was upended by accusations of sexual harassment, which he adamantly denied. The media’s attention abruptly shifted from his life story and improbable rise, to the allegations and denials. At the time, with his wife by his side, Cain announced that he was suspending his campaign to spare his family from any further pain — an explanation he reiterated on Fox News in the post-Weinstein era. When asked whether he misses the level of attention he received as a candidate, Cain said he’s happier without it because a lot of the coverage was misguided or based on lies.
“The media wasn’t pushing back on some of the accusations. No, I didn’t enjoy that. And the frustrating part is that the more you tried to deny that something didn’t happen, the more they wrote stories alleging that it did,” he said.
Cain declined to elaborate on any accusations that he found particularly egregious.
“Don’t want to get into it. Been there, done that. That’s history. That’s past and gone. I got too many positive things happening in my life right now,” he said.
Nowadays, Cain keeps a busy schedule with his radio show and overall mission to stop liberals from “stealing our way of life.” Cain, 72, lives in McDonough, Ga., a suburb just south of Atlanta. He usually wakes up around 6 a.m., pours a cup of coffee and sits down to watch the morning news and catch up on the latest to see if it’s relevant for his radio program, which airs from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on several Cox Media Group stations and his website. He arrives at his office at about 9 a.m. five days a week and fine-tunes his script for the next two hours. The show opens with “the three big things you need to know.”
“Go to three big things, because I often talk about the fact that there’s a lot of noise and a lot of garbage out there that people really don’t need to know,” Cain said.
He asks himself the following questions to determine if a particular issue should be on his list: Is this going to affect their lives? Is this going to affect their income? Is this going to affect their family? Is this going to affect the nation in a big way?
Things that might not directly affect people are reserved for section two, “News Nugget Highlights.” These are usually quick hits on what’s going on but not huge stories. He offered, as an example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s “crumbs” comment about the benefits to the nonwealthy from the Republican tax plan.
“They’re not crumbs! Not to someone who’s making a median income. I think that’s just insulting to people. I see myself as another voice out there to tell people the truth,” Cain said. “Several folks do that that I respect, but there are more voices lying to people.”
After finishing the show, Cain meets his friends for a casual lunch five minutes away, during which they don’t talk about politics or the big stories of the day. He said they just kick back, relax and have a good time. Then it’s back to the office to go over scheduling requests with his assistant or prepare for an appearance on Fox News or another outlet. Cain also writes an article for his website about once a week and produces “Pure Cain” videos about twice a week.
“My office is only five minutes from the place where I have lunch, and where I have lunch is only five minutes from my home. That’s no accident. That’s by design,” he said. “That’s a typical day for me unless I have to travel to give a keynote speech. I get a lot of invitations to speak all over the country. And I accept as many of them as I can. I can’t take them all because you got to have a little personal time and time to look after other things.”
In addition to his radio program and speeches, Cain runs a political action committee (PAC). The Pay Attention Citizens PAC’s mission is to “help preserve our nation’s way of life” and has a threefold strategy: defeating congressional RINOS (Republicans in name only), exposing the alleged bias against the Trump administration and debunking lies stemming from TDS (so-called Trump Derangement Syndrome), a “mental disorder” coined by the president’s supporters to mock his critics as ridiculous and unreasonable.
Throughout our conversation, Cain was particularly critical of identity politics and the “the narrow lens of the media,” which he blamed for making the United States of America look divided. He said that he doesn’t see this division in his everyday life, but that he does see it in the media.
He said that Black Lives Matter is an illegitimate movement and that all lives matter. He said that defining the so-called alt-right as a rebranding of white nationalism is yet again another lie. Both, he said, are instances of people using identity politics to divide us. When asked about the Women’s March, he said, “If you agree with the narrative that they’re trying to put out there, you’re OK. But if you don’t, then they shoo you away. I haven’t followed that that much.”
Cain tells Yahoo News that he will not run for office again. He said he ran for U.S. Senate and the White House because he wanted to make a difference and get things done — not kick the can down the road.
“The answer is no, I have run out. I’m not running again,” he said. “I don’t have this lifelong desire to be constantly running for political office.”
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