MURFREESBORO, Tenn.-- Though he assured the dean of Middle Tennessee State University that there would be no politics during his visit, Herman Cain called it “tempting” to respond to a handful of protesters who interrupted his lecture here on Thursday night.
As Cain was recounting his climb up Pillsbury’s corporate ladder to a full lecture hall of about 300 students, someone shouted, “Mic check!” setting off a minute’s worth of shouting from the audience. “We are the 99 percent!” several representing Occupy Wall Street chanted. “Sexual abuse is unacceptable!” one student hollered.
In counter-protest, several students yelled at the protesters to leave. One said, “We actually want to hear him, now get out!” Shortly afterward, the protesters did.
Cain was silent through the episode, with the exception of asking once, “Are y’all done?” When the hecklers had left, Cain made one comment before moving on with his speech.
“I committed to the dean that I’m not going to address any political issues today,” he said. “But do you know how tempting that is? Not gonna do it, dean, not gonna do it! Now I think I was on my way to becoming president of something,” he said to laughs.
But later in the speech, Cain revisited the issue and implied that the protesters were “abusing” their right to free speech.
“Don't be embarrassed that those young people wanted to stand up and talk about that they're part of the 99 percent,” he said. “We have freedom of speech, some people simply abuse it.”
Shortly after, he continued, “That’s fine, I didn’t get rattled. You know ... the way to attribute it was, they wanted to disrupt my part because they couldn’t attract anyone to come listen to them talk!”
Event organizers said Cain had committed to speak almost a year ago, as a former corporate head and successful businessman. Now, Cain is reevaluating a once meteoric presidential campaign in the wake of one woman's claim that they carried on a 13-year extramarital affair and several allegations of sexual harassment from his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association.
In an appearance on Fox News’s Hannity on Thursday night, Cain said he’ll make a decision about whether to continue his campaign before Monday.
“We haven’t worked out the logistics yet,” he said. “The decision could be, we’re going to continue with this campaign full speed ahead. The decision could be that were going to suspend the campaign. That’s why I’m doing the reassessment.”
Though his campaign manager Mark Block assured National Journal earlier this week that Cain dropping out of the race was not an option, Cain has since said the decision will come after he speaks with his wife, Gloria, whom he will be seeing on Friday in person for the first time since the affair allegations surfaced.