WASHINGTON — President Trump said Friday that he’s confident that his recent rally in Tulsa, Okla., isn’t the reason Herman Cain got sick.
Cain, the entrepreneur, conservative commentator and 2012 presidential candidate, died on Thursday due to complications from COVID-19. The 74-year-old contracted the virus in late June, days after attending the Trump campaign rally there.
Yahoo News asked Trump on Friday if he believed that Cain was exposed to the virus at the rally. “No, I don’t think so,” Trump said.
Herman Cain through the years
Herman Cain through the years
Herman Cain, president of the National Restaurant Association poses during an interview in Chicago Wednesday, May 13, 1998. (AP Photo/Michael S. Green)
SLUG:NA/GEORGIA DATE: 7/16/2004 CREDIT:Manuel Roig-Franzia LOCATION: Valdosta, GA CAPTION:Herman Cain shaking hands with an elderly supporter in Valdosta, Ga. Cain, a former pizza chain owner, is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate by touting a host of conservative themes, including strict abortion limits and abolishing the INternal Revenue Service. ORG XMIT: DIGITAL FILE / E-MAIL
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 09: Herman Cain (Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2011 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain walks across the stage after speaking in Ames, Iowa. Iowa's presidential caucuses are any Republican candidate's to win. Just two months before the GOP nomination voting begins, Iowa Republicans aren't surging toward former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney even though he's essentially been running for president since losing here in 2008. And, this time, none of his opponents has emerged as the consensus candidate of conservatives _ and, thus, Romney's chief challenger _ the way Mike Huckabee did four years ago. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
CNBC EVENTS -- Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate -- Pictured: Herman Cain at CNBC's 'Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate' live from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, Wednesday, November 9th at 8PM ET (Photo by Rick Osentoski/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 4120 -- Pictured: (l-r) Presidential candidate Herman Cain during an interview with host Jay Leno on September 30, 2011 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
Herman Cain gestures as he speaks to a Republican fundraiser in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Cain promised to continue fighting for several of his initiatives "from the outside." (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Gloria Cain, left, blows a kiss to the crowd as she arrives with her husband, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, right, at an event Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, in Atlanta. Cain announced he is suspending his campaign for president. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
DECEMBER 3, 2011-Atlanta, Georgia- Presidential hopeful Herman Cain bows out in front of his Georgia Headquarters in Atlanta, GA on Saturday, December 3,2011. Chris Rank/ Photographer. Cain is starting a new website aimed at promoting his ideals and economic policies called thecainsolution.com (Photo by Chris Rank/Corbis via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Questions focuseWASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Mitt Romney greets Businessman Herman Cain at the start of thethe Republican Presidential Debate at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, November 22, 2011. The debate is being sponsored by CNN, Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopefuls L-R: Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry; former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and businessman Herman Cain listen to the American National Anthem prior to the start of the Republican presidential debate on national security November 22, 2011 at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. The debate is hosted by CNN in partnership with the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Entrepreneur Herman Cain attends the first 2012 Republican presidential candidates' debate in Manchester, New Hampshire June 13, 2011. AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 11: Businessman Herman Cain is interviewed by Sean Hannity of Fox News in the Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State University after the Republican presidential debate in Ames, Iowa. The debate featured eight republican candidates including Cain. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call)
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks during the Unity Rally 2012 at The River Church in Tampa, Florida, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. Delegates of the Republican National Convention (RNC) will convene on Aug. 27 as scheduled and then recess until Aug. 28 due to the expected arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac, said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
RENO, NV - JULY 23: Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks during an American For Prosperity rally on July 23, 2012 in Reno, Nevada. Hundreds of people attended an Americans For Prosperity rally to see former Republican presidential candidate speak. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 12: Herman Cain attends The Boortz Happy Ending at The Fox Theater on January 12, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for WSB Radio)
HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Patriot Award Recipient/Former Presidental canidate Herman Cain attends the 2015 Helping A Hero Gala on November 22, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Helping A Hero)
MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 06: Herman Cain attends the North American premiere of 'A Billion Lives' at Pabst Theater on August 6, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for A Billion Lives)
Radio Journalist honoree: Herman Cain, host of The Herman Cain Show, speaks at the Third Annual Multicultural Media Correspondents Dinner at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Trump also expressed his remorse at Cain’s passing.
“Herman Cain was a great man. He did a fantastic job. He was respected by everybody, he was loved by everybody and we will miss Herman Cain,” said Trump.
Cain was photographed attending the June 20 rally, which drew about 6,000 attendees, sitting in the crowd close to other high-profile Trump supporters who were not wearing masks.
Corrin Rankin, an advisory board member on the president’s African-American outreach team, also posted a photo on social media showing Cain indoors prior to the event with Trump supporters including Rankin, Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson, Republican Party communications adviser Paris Dennard and Rev. C.L. Bryan. In one of the pictures, Cain was wearing a cloth mask around his chin. It did not cover his face. Rankin has since deleted the photo.
The event was the largest indoor event in the country since the coronavirus lockdowns began. Nevertheless, it suffered from poor attendance that was potentially due to fear of the pandemic.
Public health officials in Tulsa subsequently suggested the rally may have contributed to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area. And on the day of the rally, the Trump campaign announced that six of their advance staffers had tested positive for the virus. The staffers did not attend the rally.
Earlier this month, Cain's team announced he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 29, nine days after the event. Experts say coronavirus symptoms often occur between one and 14 days after exposure.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also addressed Cain's death — and the possibility that he was exposed to the virus at the rally — during a briefing with reporters on Friday. McEnany stressed that no one should “politicize” Cain's death and noted how he “rose to be an extremely successful businessman” after coming from “a small farm” in Georgia.
“Herman Cain is the absolute embodiment of the American Dream,” McEnany said. “We are grieved and we are very saddened by his passing.”
McEnany then read aloud a statement from Dan Calabrese, the editor of Cain’s website, that acknowledged “people will speculate about the Tulsa rally, but Herman did a lot of traveling.”
“I don’t think there’s any way to trace this to one specific contact that caused him to be infected,” Calabrese said in the statement, adding, “We’ll never know.”