Former GOP Presidential Hopeful Herman Cain Dies From Coronavirus

Cain was photographed without wearing a mask and sitting close to others at President Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa.

Herman Cain speaks during a Faith and Freedom Coalition event in Washington in June 2014. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Herman Cain, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate and staunch ally of President Donald Trump, has died at the age of 74 after contracting Covid-19.

Dan Calabrese, editor in chief of Cain’s website, said in a statement Thursday that while the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and ex-minister of an Atlanta Baptist church had been healthy in recent years, he was still at a high risk due to his history with cancer.

Cain, perhaps best known for a tax proposal he called the 9-9-9 plan, had been hospitalized on July 2 after attending President Trump’s comeback rally in Oklahoma last month.

“We knew when he was first hospitalized with Covid-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” Calabrese wrote. “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’s final public appearance was at Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa, where he was photographed without wearing a mask and not engaging in social distancing. Cain, who was co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, had downplayed the severity of the virus.

“Don’t believe the scare stories. A serious look at the numbers tells you there’s no second wave starting,” he tweeted last month.  

After Cain’s diagnosis, Calabrese said doctors told his immediate family and friends he didn’t require a respirator while hospitalized and had use of a cellphone. Calabrese also said his boss “did a lot of traveling” and there was no way “to trace this to the one specific contact that caused him to be infected.”

Calabrese said Thursday details and updates on Cain’s condition hadn’t been released to the public because “his family nor we thought there was any reason for that.” There were indicators Cain would make a full recovery, as doctors said five days before, as he was being treated with oxygen for his lungs.

“And yet we also felt real concern about the fact that he never quite seemed to get to the point where the doctors could advance him to the recovery phase,” Calabrese wrote.

Cain withdrew from his nomination to a seat on the Federal Reserve board in April, after allegations of sexual harassment — the same that plagued his 2012 presidential campaign — resurfaced. Four women have accused Cain of sexual misconduct, including Sharon Bialek, who alleges he groped her and pushed her head towards his crotch in 1997.

The former GOP presidential hopeful served as the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and the National Restaurant Association. He first entered politics in 1996 as a senior adviser to Republican Bob Dole in his unsuccessful presidential campaign. Cain ran for Zell Miller’s vacant U.S. Senate seat in Georgia in 2004, where he lost in a primary election to Johnny Isakson.

Cain recently had joined Newsmax TV as a contributor and was set to talk about national politics in a weekly program. He graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in mathematics in 1967 and earned a master’s in computer science from Purdue University in 1971.

He also worked as a Coca-Cola systems analyst and served as vice president of Burger King, as well as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City from 1989 to 1991.

After ending his 2012 campaign for the White House, Cain formed The New Voice, a media organization created to advocate tax reform policies and solutions in energy strategies and national security. Before that, he hosted “The Herman Cain Show” on Atlanta talk radio from 2008 until his bid in 2011.

Many offered their sympathies to Cain’s family and friends via Twitter Thursday, including White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who said Cain “embodied the American Dream and represented the very best of the American spirit.”

Cain’s death comes a day after the number of American fatalities from the novel coronavirus infection surpassed 150,000. As of Thursday, more than 4.4 million people in the U.S. have been infected with Covid-19.

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