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Herman Cain, Former Presidential Candidate and Pizza Chain CEO, Dies of COVID-19

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Cain used his tenure as Godfather’s Pizza CEO as his main selling point

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of the Godfather’s Pizza chain Herman Cain has died of COVID-19. He was 74. On July 2, Cain announced on Twitter that he had tested positive for coronavirus and was being treated in an Atlanta-area hospital; that announcement came less than two weeks after Cain attended a Tulsa rally for President Donald Trump, where he did not wear a mask and was publicly critical of mask mandates.

Best known for his 2012 run for the Republican Party presidential nomination, Cain served as the CEO of the Omaha-based Godfather’s Pizza chain from 1986 to 1996. From 1996 to 1999, Cain was president of the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry lobbying group known non-affectionally as “the other NRA.” It was during his tenure that at least three women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, for which, as Politico reported in 2011, the “restaurant group gave [two women] financial payouts to leave the association.” In November 2011, the Washington Post also reported that Cain’s spending during his tenure as head of the NRA had come under scrutiny.

During the 2012 campaign, Cain used his business experience running the fast-casual Godfather’s Pizza chain as his “biggest selling point” on the trail, PolitiFact wrote in 2011. “The 620-store chain was on the brink of bankruptcy when [Cain] arrived in 1986, he says, and he ‘turned it around with common-sense business principles.’” Cain is indeed credited with stabilizing the chain by revamping its ad campaigns, streamlining the menus, and “uniting the franchisees,” PolitiFact reported. At the time, the chain would not publicly comment on Cain’s run, simply releasing a statement that “Godfather’s Pizza takes no position on political candidates, but we do make great pizza.’”

In 2019, Trump announced he has considering Cain for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. Cain ultimately withdrew from contention, the New York Times reported just two weeks later, “under new scrutiny over his attitudes toward women.”

Godfather’s Pizza currently has more than 500 locations nationwide. As of press time, it has not commented on Cain’s death.