Cain accuses Perry aide of leaking harassment story, as one accuser opts against speaking out

Holly Bailey

A Republican strategist advising Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign is denying Herman Cain's claim that he leaked details of a sexual harassment claim leveled at the GOP candidate during the 1990s.

"I didn't know anything about this, so it's hard to leak something you don't know anything about," Curt Anderson, a GOP consultant who recently went to work for Perry's campaign, told CNN's American Morning. "I didn't know anything about this. I didn't leak it."

On Wednesday, Cain specifically accused Anderson—who previously worked for Cain's unsuccessful 2004 Senate bid in Georgia—of leaking the story to Politico, which first published word of the allegations on Sunday.

In an interview with Forbes, Cain said he told Anderson of the harassment charges leveled against him when he was head of the National Restaurant Association during a conversation the two had in the summer of 2003.

"When I sat down with my general campaign consultant Curt Anderson in a private room in our campaign offices in 2003 we discussed opposition research on me. It was a typical campaign conversation," Cain told Forbes contributor Richard Miniter. "I told him that there was only one case, one set of charges, one woman while I was at the National Restaurant Association. Those charges were baseless, but I thought he needed to know about them. I don't recall anyone else being in the room when I told him."

But Anderson strongly denied Cain's account—accusing the GOP candidate of trying to save his "floundering" campaign by using him and the Perry campaign as a "diversionary strategy."

"They're grasping at straws," Anderson told CNN. "He's in a tough spot and it's very rough and candidates, when they get into a firestorm like this, have sometimes come unraveled… I think they probably think it's a good diversionary strategy. I think it's kind of a weak strategy."

But the Perry campaign wasn't immune from kicking off its own blame game. In denying the campaign's involvement in leaking the harassment story, Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan suggested Mitt Romney's campaign might be behind the story.

"I wouldn't put it past them," Sullivan told CBS/National Journal reporter Rebecca Kaplan, pointing out that Cain's successor at the NRA "is a big Romney donor."

But a Romney spokeswoman strongly denied the campaign was involved in leaking the story.

The back and forth came as one of Cain's accusers decided against speaking publicly about her harassment claims against the Republican candidate. Attorney Joel Bennett had asked the NRA to waive his client's non-disclosure agreement to allow her to speak about her dealings with Cain. But on Wednesday, he told the New York Times she had decided against appearing in public and said she now only seeks the ability to release a statement rebutting Cain's charges that her claim was "false' and "baseless."

"It's unpleasant and it's sensational and she does not want to do that," Bennett told the Times. "She has a life to live and a career, and she doesn't want to become another Anita Hill."

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