Former GOP presidential hopeful, Trump ally Herman Cain dies of COVID-19

8/6/2020, 6 p.m.
Herman Cain, a former Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of a major pizza chain who went on to become ...
Mr. Cain

ATLANTA - Herman Cain, a former Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of a major pizza chain who went on to become an ardent supporter of President Trump, died Thursday, July 30, 2020, in an Atlanta hospital of complications from the coronavirus. He was 74.

Mr. Cain had been ill with the virus for several weeks. It’s not clear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalized less than two weeks after attending President Trump’s largely maskless campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20. Mr. Cain had been co-chair of Black Voices for Trump.

A photo taken at the rally showed Mr. Cain, without a mask, sitting close to other people who also were not wearing any face coverings. A statement on his Twitter account said he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 29 and was hospitalized July 1 because his symptoms were serious.

President Trump offered his condolences in a tweet last week in which he said he had also spoken by telephone to Mr. Cain’s family. He later started his news conference at the White House with a mention of Mr. Cain’s death.

“He was a very special person ... and unfortunately he passed away from a thing called the China virus,” President Trump said, using the offensive moniker he often ascribes to the coronavirus, which was first detected in China.

Mr. Cain, who hoped to become the first Black politician to win the GOP nomination for president, initially was considered a long-shot candidate. His bid was propelled forward in September 2011 when he won a straw poll vote in Florida, instantly becoming an alternative candidate for Republican voters concerned that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was not conservative enough.

But Mr. Cain struggled to respond to accusations that he had sexually harassed several women and — in a video that went viral on the internet — rambled uncomfortably when asked whether he supported or opposed President Obama’s policies in Libya. There also were gaffes on abortion and torture that led Mr. Cain’s critics to question whether he was ready for the White House.

The centerpiece of Mr. Cain’s presidential campaign was his 9-9-9 plan, which would have replaced the current tax code with a 9 percent tax on personal and corporate income and a 9 percent national sales tax. He said the plan’s simplicity would stimulate the economy by giving investors certainty.

“If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent ought to be good enough for the federal government,” he told crowds.

Mr. Cain honed his speaking skills in the corporate world, then hosted a radio talk show in Atlanta that introduced his political views and up-by-the-bootstraps life story to many Tea Party supporters and other conservatives.

He first ventured into national politics in 1994 when he publicly challenged President Clinton, a Democrat, on his proposal to force employers to buy health insurance for their employees.

“For many, many businesses like mine, the cost of your plan is simply a cost that will cause us to eliminate jobs,” Mr. Cain told President Clinton. “What will I tell those people whose jobs I will have to eliminate?”