Herman Cain: Transcript of ABC/Yahoo News Exclusive Interview

ABC News' Jonathan Karl interviews businessman Herman Cain

ByABC News
November 8, 2011, 4:02 PM

Nov. 8, 2011 -- JONATHAN KARL:All right, we are live on ABCNews.com and Yahoo News with a program called Newsmakers. Mr. Herman Cain, thank you for joining us.

HERMAN CAIN:It's my pleasure, thanks Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL: Obviously a lot to talk about. We're interviewing all the candidates, we're starting out though, with one question, the same question for all the candidates. So to you, sir, when was the precise moment that you knew you wanted to be president?

HERMAN CAIN: I knew that I had to seriously consider it when President Obama signed ObamaCare on March 23rd, my son's birthday. Because he forced that legislation down the throats of the American people, the Senate had a version, the House had a version, and the Democrats in the House and the Senate, they couldn't even come up with one version. So the president used the powers of presidency to force some members in the House to walk the plank and go along with the Senate version so he could sign it.

JONATHAN KARL: That's when you decided to run? Now--


JONATHAN KARL: --obviously-- major developments, once again, there is another accuser out there--


JONATHAN KARL: --accusing you of sexual harassment--


JONATHAN KARL: --serious charges.


JONATHAN KARL: This time, the accuser actually has come out publicly--


JONATHAN KARL: --she has a name.


JONATHAN KARL: I would like you to respond, if you would, (UNINTEL) clear those charges?

HERMAN CAIN: I would be delighted. First of all, sexual harassment is a very serious charge. Throughout my career, I have had nothin' but the utmost respect for any and all women, as well as those that have worked under my leadership in all of the different companies that I have worked. I can categorically say I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period.

And as far as these latest charges, I don't even remember. I reject all of those charges. How can I defend charges when I don't remember this person by name, I don't remember that she did work at the Educational Foundation? And when I first saw her, I didn't recollect even-- I didn't even recognize her. But the big point is, I have never acted inappropriately with anyone.

The second point that I would like to make, we as voters, have long hoped that we would get a businessman instead of a politician in order to help fix America's problems. Well, I am that businessman. I'm not gonna let these accusations, which are baseless, bogus, and false, stop me. And I don't believe the American people are goin' to allow these kinds of accusations to derail me in terms of my quest for the White House.

JONATHAN KARL: Yeah-- HERMAN CAIN: And then-- and then one third-- one-- one final point. You know, to constantly be chasing anonymous accusers, baseless accusations, is a distraction from the big issues we oughta be talkin' about. And because they are baseless, because I reject them, and in this particular case I don't even know who this lady is, is a distraction from the things we oughta talk about, which is this economy, energy independence, cutting spending, as well as getting this nation back on track.

JONATHAN KARL: So-- in this case though, it's not anonymous, right? It's Sharon Bialek--

HERMAN CAIN: It's not anonymous.



JONATHAN KARL: --she's come out, you've heard her accusations. I mean--


JONATHAN KARL: --but let's be clear. You're saying that she is lying about this?

HERMAN CAIN: Yes. I am sayin' that. You know, in as nice a way as I c-- I don't know any other way to say it. Because I would first have to recognize who she is.

JONATHAN KARL: You-- you don't remember having--


JONATHAN KARL: --drinks with her back in '97, you don't remember--

HERMAN CAIN: Absolutely not--

JONATHAN KARL: --giving her a ride in your car?

HERMAN CAIN: No. I reject all accusations. I don't remember that. And also, I don't remember knowin' her. Look, the National Restaurant Association had-- has an office in Washington D.C., as it did then, it has the foundation office and the convention office in Chicago, as it does now. We have about 150 employees in the Washington office, and about 150 employees in the-- Chicago office.

There were a lotta people there. Most of the people, some of them I would remember. But remember, I didn't have interaction with the people in Chicago on a regular basis. Only during that part of the year when we had our convention. And so when I first saw-- this lady-- do the press conference with Gloria Allred, I sat there trying to recall who she was and if I knew her. And I am honestly telling you, I can't even recall knowing her back then.

JONATHAN KARL: You know-- you know the expression-- where there's smoke there's fire. And a lotta people say, "Look, this is now, you know, the fourth woman who has made these allegations against you."


JONATHAN KARL: What-- what are the motivations here? I mean, why-- why would they be doing this?

HERMAN CAIN: Well, Jonathan, I honestly believe that there's an element in this country, in our politics, that does not want to see a businessman succeed at getting the nomination for the Republican party, and does not want me to succeed at becoming President of the United States of America. A lotta people have so much vested interests in the status quo, such as the tax code, such as lobbying activities, such as maintaining that little power base.

They really don't want to see an unconventional candidate that is connecting with the people, who's putting bold solutions on the table. And as I moved up in the polls, I fully expected to be attacked. I expected to but criticized. But as I have often said, you know, many of these attacks are-- are baseless. If someone had some real stuff to bring forward, that's one thing. But so far, it's been anonymous accusers. We can't keep responding to those questions. And now this one isn't anonymous, but I have absolutely not acted inappropriate with this lady or anybody else in my entire career.

JONATHAN KARL: Some of your supporters have called this a high-tech lynching, comparing it to what happened to Clarence Thomas.

HERMAN CAIN: Right. JONATHAN KARL: Do-- do you-- are they right? Do you agree with that? HERMAN CAIN: Well, it's a matter of terminology. And if that's what some people wanna call it, you know, that's their terminology. I just call it-- I just call it a vicious-- baseless attack on my character and my integrity, because as you know, that's very important to me. And one other thing that I will add. The reason that I'm runnin' for President in the United States of America is because of the kids and the grandkids.

I'm not doin' this for me. The other reason that I believe that these attacks are bein' made is they would like nothin' more for me to get so discouraged and disgusted because of the pain that it's causin' my family. And it is causin' my family some pain. That hurts more than the personal pain that I feel.

And so I happen to believe that they're tryin' to put en-- enough of this-- it's not even smoke. There's an old saying, if you throw enough mud up against the wall you hope that some of it will stick. And sooner or later, you'd have a muddy wall. But I am not goin' to be discouraged to the point that I'm gonna pull out of this race because of these baseless attacks.

JONATHAN KARL: You know, you-- you write in-- in your book that your wife-- Gloria when you told her you wanted to run for president, but--


JONATHAN KARL: --she was terrified.


JONATHAN KARL: Scared to death--


(OVERTALK) JONATHAN KARL: --what you said.


JONATHAN KARL: So-- so what-- how is she dealing with all this?

HERMAN CAIN: Oh, sh-- she was dealing with me runnin' for president quite well up until-- last week in the last couple of days. Her terror-- bein' terrified came from the perception that most people have about bein' constantly under the microscope, which you are. And the expectations that are made of a candidate's wife, or the president's wife.

But when I sat and talked with her, and said that "I don't have those expectations on you, maybe the media does, maybe people in the political establishment do." And I laid out very clearly what my expectations were. For example, I did not expect her to be on this grueling campaign schedule that I'm on. That made her feel good.

Because I want her to continue to be that calm and tranquility for our family. Which is, as you know, the most important thing to me. So when I said "You d-- I'm not expecting you to be on the campaign trail, I'm not expecting you to go through this grueling schedule, I'm not expecting you to respond to media interviews." That's not somethin' that she wants to do. She felt a whole lot more comfortable.

And so today, she is 200 percent supportive of me. Now, with these recent accusations, obviously that has an emotional impact on her. Because you're talkin' about her husband of 43 years. And even though my wife is-- more of a quiet pers-- quieter person than I am, she has a quiet, sweet personality, she can get angry like anybody else.

JONATHAN KARL: So is she angry about this?

HERMAN CAIN: Oh yeah. Yeah, she-- she'll tell you flat out, she's angry about it. Because in her own words, after we watched that Gloria Allred-- press conference yesterday with the other lady accusin' me, my wife even said, 'cause I called her right afterwards. And my wife said to me, when I said, "Hello sweetheart, did you see it?" She said, "Yes." I said, "What'd you think?"

She said, "I've known you for over 40 year. That stuff doesn't even sound like you, let alone that you did this with somebody that, you know, is making these accusations." And that was reassuring, because she knows that's not something that I would do. Some of the claims that were made, absolutely ridiculous.

JONATHAN KARL: You know, when Bill Clinton faced accusations in his campaign, with Gennifer Flowers-- the way they dealt with it is-- is, did a big 60 Minutes interview with-- with Hillary Clinton, came out and, you know, stuck up for him. Did you think we'll-- we'll be seeing your wife come out publicly and-- and defend you? Or you gonna keep her out of all this?

HERMAN CAIN: I'm gonna keep her out of all of this. She is gonna do some public interviews when it's the right time, and when she's ready. See, this is another difference between the Cain campaign and what we're doin' and how I'm doin' it than the typical expectations. My-- my candidacy is unconventional.

JONATHAN KARL: That's for sure. (LAUGHTER)

HERMAN CAIN: Never held public office-- do not have a cajillion (PH) dollars, didn't have high name ID until recently, and I'm talkin' prior to these accusations that have been goin' on for the past couple of weeks--

JONATHAN KARL: You've got high name ID now.

HERMAN CAIN: Now my name ID might be 99.9, like (LAUGH) Ivory soap, okay? But no, I don't expect her to be doin' a lotta interviews, speakin' up for me. Because you know what, she knows that I can speak up for myself. But what I'm going to do is I am going to speak up for my family and defend my family. That's important to me. And one of my messages today is going to be, look, I know that-- journalists and the media, they have-- they have a job to do.

And they are professionals at it. They have to get the story. But I will get very indignant if they continue to stalk my family, make unsolicited calls. That has no place in politics. It has no place in America. And so that's the part that I wanna make a point about, is that no, take all of the attacks at me as you want. I'm runnin' for president. My family is not runnin'. Leave my family out of these-- things that have been goin' on over the last couple of weeks, tryin' to get them to do an interview or say something that, you know, they might regret.

JONATHAN KARL: So I have one more question on this. We heard a little while ago from Mitt Romney, ABC News, Yahoo interview, about this latest accusation. And he was pretty direct on this. He said that "This woman's charges are particularly disturbing, and they are serious." What do you say to Mitt Romney?

HERMAN CAIN: Well, he-- he's right. They're disturbing to me, they are serious, I have taken them serious, and my response is, there's absolutely no basis to them. It's a distraction to this whole primary process. But I'm not initiating this. If there was some basis to it, yes, pass judgment on me. But what I'm saying is, they are serious. But-- but there's absolutely no basis to them.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, I wanna get now to some questions that we've had come in from our ABCNews.com and-- and Yahoo users.


JONATHAN KARL: Would you-- would you guess what the most common topic was?

HERMAN CAIN: "9-9-9"?

JONATHAN KARL: It was taxes. (LAUGHTER) (UNINTEL) 9-9, it was taxes. So-- one-- one question is why should increasing revenues through higher taxes on the wealthy be off the table when it is clear that spending cuts alone are not going to end the budget deficit?

HERMAN CAIN: I have talked about we have to do both. We have to raise revenue and we have to cut spending. And my approach to cutting spending as president, is to do a ten percent across the board cut of all federal agencies, and then ask each of my new agency heads to find another ten percent by drilling down. That's what you do in business to come up with approximately 20 percent cuts for the first fiscal year budget that I will have the authority over as president to sign off on.

JONATHAN KARL: But you'd raise revenue?

HERMAN CAIN: Yes, I would raise revenues. I would raise revenues with a new structure. Throw out the current tax code, and put in my "9-9-9" plan. Here's how we raise revenues without raisin' taxes. We expand the base. That's how we're able to end up with that 9-9-9 percent rate. So we do raise revenues significantly.

In fact, our static analysis, as well as our dynamic analysis, has shown that revenues will go up significantly, unemployment would be cut significantly, and this economy would take off. The main reason is that the "9-9-9" plan would provide certainty to the business community. That's what will get this economy growing.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, another question from our-- readers, viewers online-- about immigration.


JONATHAN KARL: Would you consider supporting an amendment that would prohibit a child born in the U.S. to an illegal from automatically becoming a U.S. citizen?

HERMAN CAIN: Yes, I would. I--

JONATHAN KARL: You would? So you-- this is dealing with the 14th amendment?

HERMAN CAIN: No, no. You said "an amendment."

JONATHAN KARL: Right, yes-- yes--

HERMAN CAIN: You didn't--

JONATHAN KARL: No, I'm sorry.

HERMAN CAIN: So, but I do not support tampering with the 14th amendment. If we wanna deal with the issue of babies bein' born to illegals, do something additionally. Pass a new law. But don't tamper with the 14th amendment and get hung up in that.

JONATHAN KARL: But you would pass-- you-- you would favor a constitutional amendment that would say, "No more d-- you have automatic citizenship if you're born on U.S. soil"?

HERMAN CAIN: Yes, I would. And-- and here's one of the other reasons why. We cannot condone illegal activity comin' to this country illegally, and then you automatically become a citizen. (BEEPING) It encourages people to come here illegally. Now, the-- the other thing is we are a nation of wide open doors. We need to fix the real problem.

The real problem is clean up the bureaucracy that people have to deal with to become a citizen the right way. And we must truly secure the border. We can't leave it porous. So yes, I would support somethin' like that, because America should be built based upon laws and not people doin' things illegally just because they're able to sneak into the country.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, now let me ask about the Cain doctrine--


JONATHAN KARL: --for foreign policy. You're president, you're sittin' in the Oval Office, and your intelligence chiefs come in and they say, "Iran is a month or two away from getting-- a workable, usable, nuclear bomb."


JONATHAN KARL: What does President Cain do?

HERMAN CAIN: Well, before I get that message, there are some things that I would already have in place. Number one, a serious energy independence strategy, which we are developin', and we will be releasin' it within the next couple of weeks.

JONATHAN KARL: But if I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I mean, you could get this message in your first day on the job, I mean, you know--


JONATHAN KARL: --publications are that Iran-- so--


JONATHAN KARL: --the-- the-- this could happen as soon as you walk into the Oval Office.

HERMAN CAIN: Exactly. But see, I'm not gonna wait until my first day on the job to already begin to get these things in place.


HERMAN CAIN: And so, the reason that it's critical to have an energy independence plan ready to go is because as soon as we announce it and I become president, it's gonna impact the price of oil on the world market. Because speculation drive the price by about a third of it. So as the price of oil goes down, that puts economic pressure on Iran. Secondly, as we drill for more of the resources that we have here, oil, coal, and shale oil, guess what, the more we move toward energy independent-- hold on, hold on.

The more we move toward energy independence, the more economic pressure we put on Iran. Now, there's a second piece. The second piece is the deployment of our Ballistic Missile Defense capable Aegis warships in that part of the world, so if that is they do attack one of our friends like Israel, or if they do try to attack us, we will have the capability to be able to defend ourselves.

JONATHAN KARL: But your intelligence chiefs are telling you they're a month away from getting a nuclear bomb. Do you authorize action to take it out? To take out their nuclear facility?


HERMAN CAIN: Well it would de-- Jonathan, here's one thing about the way I make decisions. I will need all of the information. That is a hypothetical. That's an isolated hypothetical, so I'm not gonna say, "I would order a strike to take out that nuclear weapon," until I knew what evidence would-- that we had that that is the case.

I want to see the evidence. I don't wanna make the mistake of makin' the decision and we not bein' absolutely sure. Secondly, what do we know from an intelligence standpoint their intentions within a month or two of actually havin' that nuclear weapon.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, we're just about out of time, but we've got a lightning round. These are questions that are asked of all the candidates, and I want a very, very short answer from you on all of them. These are-- these are a little more fun. You know--


JONATHAN KARL: --we like to have a little bit of fun, right? So--


JONATHAN KARL: Okay. So first thing, worst job you've ever had?

HERMAN CAIN: A jackhammer in the basement of an apartment building tearin' up a concrete floor.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, that sounds rough. (LAUGHTER) First thing you would do when you walk into the Oval Office, the very first day?

HERMAN CAIN: Ask to see my National Security Advisor, the first day on the job. That afternoon, get together my economic advisory team. Day one, day two, and day three will be all about national security, the economy, talkin' to the leaders of Congress, and let's figure out how quickly we can pass the "9-9-9" economic growth and jobs plan.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, the happiest you have ever been, and you cannot say your wedding day, and you can't say birth of children or grandchildren.

HERMAN CAIN: Happiest I've ever been, the list is too long to say the happiest. Remember, I'm a generally a very upbeat, happy person. So it's very difficult to pick one of the happiest days of my life. If I had to pick one that was one of the happiest days of my life, I would have to say when I became an associate minister at my church, Antioch Baptist Church North.

JONATHAN KARL: All right, all right good. Name the fifth president that belongs on Mt. Rushmore.

HERMAN CAIN: The fifth president that belongs on Mt. Rushmore, he hasn't been president yet.

JONATHAN KARL: (LAUGH) Okay, all right, (LAUGH) we'll go with that.

HERMAN CAIN: No, the one possibility up until this point would be Ronald Reagan.

JONATHAN KARL: Ronald Reagan--

HERMAN CAIN: Ronald Reagan.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, okay. Now, who would play Herman Cain in the movie? This is gonna be one hell of a movie.

HERMAN CAIN: He hasn't been discovered yet.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, last (LAUGH) question. Tell us in Tweet length, and this is 140 characters or less, why do you want to be president?

HERMAN CAIN: I want to be president because I believe this nation is on the wrong track. And I believe that I have the experiences, the leadership capability-- to be able to get us back on the right track, consistent with the founders' intentions, the Declaration of Independence, consistent with the Constitution, and consistent with free market principle. That's why I want to be president.

JONATHAN KARL: Think you might've used a few more than 140 characters, (LAUGH) but-- close enough. Herman Cain, thank you for joining us here on this-- special-- event for ABC News and Yahoo News, thank you. And if you've missed any of this live stream, it will be available both on ABCNews.com and on Yahoo News. Thank you very much for watching. Mr. Cain, thank you.

HERMAN CAIN: Thank you.

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