Huntsman and Barbour Urge Cain to Come Clean on Accusations

John Boehner

Herman Cain faced fresh criticism on Sunday from some prominent Republican colleagues, and at least two of them called on him to be much more forthcoming about the allegations of sexual harassment that appear to be weighing on his presidential candidacy.

A fellow Republican presidential candidate, the former Utah governor John M. Huntsman Jr., suggested that the entire Republican campaign was suffering from the media-consuming focus on allegations that Mr. Cain harassed at least two employees of the National Restaurant Association while serving as its president in the 1990s.

While describing Mr. Cain as “a decent, decent man,” Mr. Huntsman went on to say, “It’s up to Herman Cain to get the information out and get it out in total.” He said that the intense attention to the harassment allegations was “taking all the bandwidth out of the discussion,” so that the Republican candidates were unable to discuss the economy, foreign policy and other pressing issues.

“It’s got to come out in total,” he repeated during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Legitimate questions have been raised.”

Mr. Huntsman, who has tried to position himself as something of a truth-teller in the campaign, thus appeared to have gone further than any other Republican candidate in calling on Mr. Cain for a fuller explanation.

But another prominent Republican, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, made a similar point.

“Bad news is not like fine wine — it doesn’t improve with age,” he said, paraphrasing a quote from Henry A. Kissinger. Mr. Barbour, who himself had considered a presidential run this year, said it was vital for Mr. Cain to “get all the facts on the table, get it behind him.”

Like other Republicans who appeared on the Sunday talk shows, Mr. Barbour declined to condemn Mr. Cain’s actions, past or recent, but said the stakes were high, both for the former businessman and for the party.

“I’m not one of the people who thinks this is necessarily fatal,” he said, also on “Meet the Press.” “But people need to know what the facts are.”

While Mr. Cain’s campaign says its fund-raising has soared in the past week as conservatives rally around him, a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion survey found that his favorability rating among Republican voters had declined significantly in the past week, to 57 percent from 66 percent.

“There’s no way you could say it’s been good for him,” Mr. Barbour said. He added that Mr. Cain “needs to get all the cards on the table, face-up.”

Other Republicans, however, were more cautious in their appraisal.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas was asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether she found the harassment allegations disturbing.

“Not at all,” she replied. “I just don’t see anonymous sources as fair against a candidate. I think if someone has a real concern, they should come out and say it, but nothing that I’ve heard, or in the press that I have read, is other than off-color remarks” by Mr. Cain.

The House speaker, Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, declined to comment about Mr. Cain in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” saying simply, “I’m not going there.”

But a former Democratic presidential hopeful, Bill Richardson, the past governor of New Mexico, called for the sort of accountability demanded by Mr. Huntsman and Mr. Barbour. “Sexual harassment is serious,” he said on “Meet the Press.” “I think Mr. Cain has to answer these questions.”

He suggested that some Republicans’ defense of Mr. Cain was emblematic of a party moving right on women’s rights and other issues.

“The extreme right wing of the Republican Party has taken over to the point where we now have an amendment in several states that criminalizes a woman’s right to choose,” he said, referring to the so-called personhood amendments being considered in some states.

Mr. Richardson said there was “a huge assault on women’s right in the Republican Party, and an extreme right wing that has taken over.” That, he said, would make it difficult for any Republican centrist to rise to leadership.

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