The Herman Cain campaign is blaming the Rick Perry campaign for leaking the story about sexual harassment charges against him at the National Restaurant Association in the late-1990s, a charge the Perry campaign vehemently denies.
"The Perry campaign needs to apologize to Herman Cain and his family," Cain Chief of Staff Mark Block said on Fox this afternoon.
Perry campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan told NBC's Alex Moe today, "No one at our campaign was involved in this story in any way. Any claim to the contrary is patently false. The first we learned of it was when we read the story in POLITICO."
Cain earlier today in an interview with Forbes blamed a consultant who worked with him during his 2004 run for Senate in Georgia -- DC-based consultant Curt Anderson, who Perry recently hired. Anderson denies he was a source of the leak.
“I told my wife about this in 1999 and I’ve got nothing to hide,” Cain said. “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. 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.”
In response, Anderson told NBC's Carrie Dann in a statement: "I’ve known Herman Cain for about seven years. I was one of several consultants on his Senate race in 2004 and was proud to help him. I'd never heard any of these allegations until I read them in Politico, nor does anything I read in the press change my opinion that Herman is an upstanding man and a gentleman. I have great respect for Herman and his character and I would never speak ill of him, on the record or off the record. That's true today and it's not going to change."
Also today, Chris Wilson, a GOP pollster aligned with the pro-Perry Super PAC "Make Us Great Again," went on a local Oklahoma City radio show and said he witnessed inappropriate behavior on Cain's part while he was at the National Restaurant Association. Wilson was the pollster for the restaurant association, he said on the radio show.
But he told First Read he acted on his own and was not the source of any leaks.
"To be clear, and you can ask any of the reporters covering this story, I had nothing to do with leaking this in any way," he said in an email to First Read, "and I've never discussed or shared this story with any of my clients - period."
Wilson was not a source for NBC's independent reporting and confirmation of various aspects of this story. Politico first reported on the radio interview.
Wilson told KTOK that he expected the allegations to come out eventually, that they were widely known within the association, and that he personally witnessed inappropriate behavior "a couple times."
"I was actually around a couple times where this happened," Wilson said. "Anyone who was involved with the restaurant association at the time knew that this was going to come up."
He added, "My bet is the NRA ... is going to have no choice but to release her from the confidentiality agreement, because I think Herman Cain has already violated it by addressing it on the air last night."
Wilson described the woman who would like to come forward as a lower-level staffer, about two years out of college.
"This all occurred at a restaurant in Crystal City (Va.)," Wilson said. "And everybody was very aware of it. ... It was only a matter of time, because so many people were aware of what took place" and that she left and why she left. "If she does go on the air and talk about it, I think it'll be the end of his campaign."
He deferred on the specific details.
And Politico's Jonathan Martin reports tonight: "In a meeting at the Capitol Hill Club, Cain said he and his campaign had found out who was purportedly leaking word of his behavior toward female employees at the National Restaurant Association and that a report was coming out that would disprove the charges, according to the chief of staff to one of the Georgia members."