Herman Cain, the former Republican presidential candidate and business executive who was hospitalized this month with the coronavirus, has died. He was 74.
His death was announced Thursday on his website and social media accounts. Early this month, he said he had been hospitalized in the Atlanta area.
Mr. Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, and his irreverent style and rags-to-riches story made him an unlikely hero of Tea Party conservatives. He dropped out of the race after he was accused of sexual misconduct, which he denied, but his celebrity in conservative circles endured, and he became a steady ally of President Trump.
Mr. Cain tested positive for the virus on June 29, and went to the hospital two days later.
“We knew when he was first hospitalized with Covid-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” Dan Calabrese, the editor of Mr. Cain’s website, said in the post announcing his death. “He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance.”
“Although he was basically pretty healthy in recent years, he was still in a high-risk group because of his history with cancer,” Mr. Calabrese noted.
When Mr. Cain was hospitalized, Mr. Calabrese said that in addition to attending Mr. Trump’s indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20, he had done “a lot of traveling” recently.
“I don’t think there’s any way to trace this to the one specific contact that caused him to be infected,” he said at the time. “We’ll never know.”
In a video posted to his website after the president’s rally, Mr. Cain said he had worn a mask while in groups of people. But he also posted photographs of himself on social media that showed him without a mask and surrounded by people in the arena.
Mr. Cain’s presidential campaign was not his first attempt to jump into politics, but it raised his profile out of his home state, Georgia, and onto a national stage. His platform was likely best known for his 9-9-9 tax plan: a flat 9 percent individual income tax rate, a 9 percent corporate tax rate and a 9 percent national sales tax.
He continued to appear at political conferences and in the conservative news media long after his campaign ended. And after Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Cain’s name was sometimes floated as a potential addition to the administration. Last year, Mr. Cain withdrew from consideration as one of Mr. Trump’s picks for the Federal Reserve Board, following the re-emergence of accusations of sexual harassment.
On Twitter, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Cain “embodied the American dream and represented the very best of the American spirit.”
In speeches, on talk radio and on the trail, Mr. Cain often spoke about growing up poor in Georgia, telling of how his father worked three jobs to buy a house for the family. Mr. Cain went to Morehouse College and earned a master’s degree at Purdue University before becoming a vice president at Pillsbury.
Following the advice of the company’s president, Mr. Cain quit and entered the Burger King training program, in which potential executives are trained from the grill up, working as “Whopper floppers” and cleaning bathrooms. He rose to take charge of his region, and Pillsbury asked him to help turn around the Godfather’s chain, which he eventually joined.
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One of his first brushes with national fame came in 1994, when he challenged President Bill Clinton on his health care legislation during a televised town-hall-style meeting.
From 1996, when he left the pizza company, until 1999, Mr. Cain ran the National Restaurant Association, a once-sleepy trade group that he helped transform into a lobbying powerhouse.
In a 2011 interview with The New York Times Magazine, Mr. Cain said he became a Republican after a Black man at a restaurant yelled out: “Black Republicans? There’s no such thing.”
“When I got back to Omaha, I registered as a Republican,” he said. “It haunted me for three days that someone would dare tell me what party affiliation I should have.”
Information about survivors was not immediately available. Mr. Cain married his wife, Gloria, in 1968, and the couple have two children and four grandchildren, according to his website.