Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of a major pizza chain who went on to become an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, died Thursday of complications from the coronavirus. He was 74.
Dan Calabrese, who authored a post on Cain’s website announcing the death, told The Associated Press that Cain died at an Atlanta hospital early Thursday morning.
Cain had been ill with the virus for several weeks. It’s not clear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalized less than two weeks after attending Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20. Cain had been co-chair of Black Voices for Trump.
A photo taken at the rally showed Cain, without a mask, sitting closely to other people who also were not wearing any face coverings. A statement on his Twitter account said he tested positive for COVID on June 29 and was hospitalized July 1 because his symptoms were serious.
“We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” Calabrese wrote in the website post Thursday.
Trump offered his condolences in a tweet on Thursday in which he said he had also spoken by telephone to Cain’s family.
He later started his news conference at the White House with a mention of Cain’s death. “He was a very special person … and unfortunately he passed away from a thing called the China virus,” Trump said, using the moniker he often ascribes to the new coronavirus, which was first detected in China.
He added, “We send out prayers to Herman’s great wife, Gloria … And I have to say, America grieves for all of the 150,000 Americans that had their lives taken by this horrible, invisible enemy.”
Cain, who had hoped to become the first Black politician to win the GOP nomination, was initially considered a long-shot candidate. His bid was propelled forward in September 2011 when he won a straw poll vote in Florida, instantly becoming an alternative candidate for Republican voters concerned that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was not conservative enough.