The Slatest

Herman Cain, Conservative Culture Warrior Who Opposed Mask Mandates, Dies of COVID-19

Cain sits among a group of fellow maskless Trump supporters who hold up "Black Voices for Trump" signs.
Herman Cain and supporters of Donald Trump listen to him speak during a campaign rally on June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

Former Republican presidential primary candidate and Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain has died of COVID-19, his personal website announced on Thursday.

Cain briefly climbed to the top of the Republican primary field in late 2011 before his campaign collapsed. He ultimately dropped out of the 2012 nomination contest after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. Concerns around those allegations last year forced him to withdraw from consideration for a position on the Federal Reserve Board after being nominated by President Donald Trump.

As a stage 4 colon cancer survivor, Cain was at high risk of a bad outcome if he contracted the novel coronavirus. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has killed more than 150,000 people in the United States since the start of the pandemic.

While it is impossible to pinpoint when Cain contracted the virus, he attended Donald Trump’s controversial Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally—at which several campaign staff members tested positive for COVID-19—on June 20 and was photographed and filmed in a tight crowd without wearing a mask.

Nine days later, he tested positive for COVID-19. Two days after that, on July 1, his symptoms were severe enough that he had to be hospitalized. “He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance,” Dan Calabrese, the editor of Cain’s website, wrote in the post announcing Cain’s death.

On the same day that Cain was hospitalized, his social media account tweeted in praise of Trump’s decision to hold a July 4 rally at Mount Rushmore without mandatory masks.

In his final hours, his social media account tweeted about a recent CBS News poll saying that 70 percent of Americans were skeptical of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

In his last months, Cain was also a cheerleader for reopening the economy. In a Fox Business segment on May 19, Cain said, “We must open up this economy.” Cain then argued that Democrats who sought a more cautious approach to reopening the economy were doing so to damage the president’s political prospects.

“There is a political element in here and all of the Democrats don’t want us to open up and they keep claiming we might be opening up too soon. Look at the data! We’re not opening up too soon,” Cain said. “They would love to be able to campaign on a totally collapsed economy and blame President Trump and his administration.” He added that certain Republican governors were “reaching that proper balance” in reopening schedules. “We are only about a week and a half into some of this measured type of reopening that states like Florida, and Georgia, and Texas are doing,” he said. “So far, according to [Health and Human Services] Secretary Alex [Azar] they are doing OK and it has not spiked in terms of hospitalizations. That is a good sign.”

Florida reported a state record 216 deaths and Texas recorded 316 deaths on Thursday, as it was reported that 1,420 people in the United States had died from the coronavirus outbreak, the highest one-day total since May, according to the New York Times data, excluding reporting anomalies.

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