Herman Cain, a former pizza company executive turned Republican presidential contender, died Thursday morning almost a month after he was hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. He was 74.
Cain's death — which was first reported by the conservative website Newsmax, where Cain hosted a show — was confirmed on his official website soon after.
"You're never ready for the kind of news we are grappling with this morning," website editor Dan Calabrese wrote. "But we have no choice but to seek and find God's strength and comfort to deal."
"Herman Cain has gone to be with the Lord."
President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he had telephoned Cain's family to express his condolences. "Herman had an incredible career and was adored by everyone that ever met him, especially me," Trump tweeted. "He was a very special man, an American Patriot, and great friend."
Cain attended the president's June 20 indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sharing photos of himself not wearing a mask while at the event. Several others who attended the rally subsequently became sick, including Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. Six Trump campaign staffers who were part of the advance team for the event tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the rally. The director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department later said it was "more than likely" the rally contributed to a surge in cases there.
When news of Cain's hospitalization was announced 12 days later, Cain's staff said there was no way of knowing where he had contracted the virus.
One of the country's most prominent Black Republicans, Cain was a candidate in the 2012 GOP presidential primary and famously ran on a platform that included a 9–9–9 tax plan, advocating for income, corporate, and national sales taxes of 9% each.
Cain, who had previously served as the CEO of Godfather's Pizza, briefly enjoyed a surge in the polls thanks to his debate performances and folksy manner. He also stirred online chatter due to his frequent references to Pokémon, including his decision to quote “Power of One,” the theme song for Pokémon the Movie 2000 as he dropped out of the race.
"I believe these words came from the Pokémon movie," Cain told fans as he bid farewell. "Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It’s never easy when there’s so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference. There’s a mission just for you and me.”
In 2019, Trump nominated him to serve on the Federal Reserve Board, but Cain later withdrew after allegations of sexual harassment resurfaced. The same allegations contributed to his decision to pull out of the presidential race in 2012.
"He was a man of conviction, passion, and love of his community and country," Paris Dennard, a prominent Black Republican strategist who worked with Cain on the Black Voices for Trump advisory board, told BuzzFeed News. "Only in America could a Herman Cain become such a success story we should all be proud of."
Kadia Goba contributed reporting.