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Herman Cain acknowledged that he was accused of sexual harassment while he was head of the National Restaurant Association, but called the claims "totally baseless" in his first direct comments on the story.

Cain told Fox News when asked about the truth of the allegations: "I have never sexually harassed anyone and, yes, I was falsely accused when I was at the National Restaurant Association." He went on to call the accusations "totally baseless." When asked how the campaign would move forward, Cain said it would stay on message. "What you can expect from my campaign is for me to stay on message," the Times Caucus blog transcribed.

Politico's Reid Epstein notes this Cain comment from the Fox News interview about a potential settlement: "If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it and I hope it wasn’t for much. If there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers at the restaurant association."

Earlier, in response to the Politico report, campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon told Geraldo Rivera that "There is nothing to this -- it is a smear campaign." His advisor Mark Block said on MSNBC that "Herman Cain has never sexually harassed anybody. Period. End of story." 

In Cain's response to the other question about his campaign potentially violating finance laws, the candidate said he wasn't aware of the story published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Update: 1:12 (EDT)  Cain said in a press conference at The National Press Club shortly after his Fox interview: "As a result of today's big news story, I REALLY know what it feels like to be number one."

Update: NBC News confirmed that one unnamed woman received a settlement from the National Restaurant Association "after complaining about inappropriate sexual conduct by Herman Cain." Politico had reported that two women had received settlements from the NRA.

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