COVID-19

Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate, dies aged 74

Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate, dies aged 74

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US PRESS GROUP

Herman Cain, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate and ardent supporter of Donald Trump, has died of coronavirus, his team announced on his website on Thursday.

Cain, 74, had been ill with the virus for several weeks and was in a high-risk group due to his history with cancer. It is unclear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalised less than two weeks after attending the US president’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on 20 June.

Cain, who co-chaired Black Voices for Trump, was photographed at the event without a face mask and not physically distancing from other supporters. Public health officials had warned that the rally could put lives at risk and eight Trump campaign staffers tested positive for Covid-19.

“You’re never ready for the kind of news we are grappling with this morning,” wrote Dan Calabrese, the editor of Cain’s website. “But we have no choice but to seek and find God’s strength and comfort to deal with it. Herman Cain – our boss, our friend, like a father to so many of us – has passed away.”

Calabrese added: “We knew when he was first hospitalized with Covid-19 that this was going to be a rough fight. He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. We all prayed that the initial meds they gave him would get his breathing back to normal, but it became clear pretty quickly that he was in for a battle.”

Cain was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of a janitor and a cleaner, and grew up in Georgia in the segregated south. After college he worked as a Baptist minister and radio talkshow host and enjoyed a successful business career, serving as chief executive of the Godfather’s pizza chain, chief executive of the National Restaurant Association and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

He surged to public attention with a long-shot presidential campaign. He hoped to become the first person of colour to win the Republican nomination and challenge Barack Obama, raising the prospect of a 2012 election between two African American men. But Cain rejected that label, once saying: “I don’t use African American, because I’m American, I’m black and I’m conservative. I feel more of an affinity for America than I do for Africa.”

In some ways he was a forerunner of Trump: a maverick, gaffe-prone businessman who had never held elected office and who energised grassroots conservatives, many of whom found Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, too moderate. Cain’s campaign slogan was “9-9-9”, a pledge to simplify the tax rate to 9% for income, corporate and sales tax.

But unlike Trump, he was upended by accusations that he had sexually harassed several women and by a poor grasp of foreign policy. He rambled when asked whether he supported or opposed Obama’s policies in Libya and, complaining to reporters about “gotcha questions”, he said: “And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say you know, I don’t know. Do you know?”

Last year Trump spoke to Cain about sitting on the Federal Reserve board but he withdrew the nomination after objections from several Republican senators. Cain continued to give the president firm backing and got involved in his re-election campaign, sometimes in incendiary fashion.

In May, tweeting a link to an article on his website about billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, Cain posted: “This piece of trash survived the Nazi occupation of Europe, genocide, countless horrific atrocities, and a global conflagration that took millions upon millions of lives. ...But COVID-19 is the ‘greatest crisis of his lifetime?’ That’s telling.”

Even as he lay in hospital, Cain tweeted about Trump’s Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore: “Masks will not be mandatory for the event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!”

Never lacking in self-confidence, Cain often referred to himself in the third person. His motivational speaking company was named THE New Voice Inc – the acronym stood for The Hermanator Experience. But he also showing willingness to laugh at himself, appearing with comedians such as John Oliver with whom he sat in a mock-up of the Oval Office.

Acknowledging Cain’s death in a tweet, Romney, who eventually won the 2012 nomination but lost to Obama, wrote: “Saddened that Herman Cain—a formidable champion of business, politics and policy—has lost his battle with Covid. St. Peter will soon hear ‘999!’ Keep up the fight, my friend.”

Cain is survived by his wife, Gloria Etchison, their children and grandchildren.

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