In 1983, Eva Vachal, then 24 years old, was hired by Godfather’s Pizza. She began in the information-technology department. By 1986, when Herman Cain became president of the company, she was the corporate receptionist.
For the next decade — Cain’s entire tenure at the Omaha-based firm — she continued in that position, answering phones and assisting executives with various projects.
Vachal worked closely with Cain. They became friends. When he was profiled by Ebony magazine in April 1988, she was featured in the spread, chatting with Cain from her desk.
She was close with other young women in the office, especially the assistants to Cain and the rest of the Godfather’s brass. They frequently huddled over lunch and coffee, discussing, among other things, their bosses, including the company’s gregarious chief executive.
And never once, she says, did a woman raise an eyebrow about Cain’s conduct. In fact, in an interview with National Review Online, Vachal says that during her entire career at Godfather’s Pizza, she never heard about any improper conduct, harassment, or inappropriate behavior by Cain, even in the form of water-cooler gossip. “Believe me, receptionists know everything,” she says. “They see everything.”
After watching Cain work closely with young women for years, Vachal says she was shocked to learn of the sexual-harassment claims made by former Cain associates at the National Restaurant Association, the organization Cain led after he left Godfather’s Pizza.
The allegations have rocked Cain’s presidential campaign. With numerous allegations hovering over the candidate, many political observers have wondered whether Cain is a viable contender.
Vachal says she is speaking out because she does not believe Cain’s accusers. She also wants to shed a little light on his personality, to help voters understand who he is. She notes that she has not been in communication with the campaign or with Cain.
As she sees it, Cain was likely misinterpreted by the women who received settlements. At Godfather’s Pizza, within the executive suite, he was always a professional, she says. But he did enjoy complimenting staffers, be it on their work or on their sharp outfits.
“He had a very teasing attitude,” Vachal recalls. “He reminded me of my father and me. We’re both little rascals; we love to tease people.”
“Once in a while, he would tell me how attractive I looked in my pantsuit, or whatever, but I liked it,” she says. “I get it. I understand teasing. I don’t mind compliments.”
“People have become overly sensitive about things,” Vachal says, reflecting on the nature of the allegations. “Maybe people lack the confidence to say they’re uncomfortable, but I’ve always been able to say, ‘You’re standing too close.’ But with Herman, it was never like that.”
“I was a young girl in the Eighties,” she continues. “I was married and I had young children. He helped me to believe in myself even more.” His comments — to her and other young women, and employees of both genders — were meant to “boost people, period,” she says.
“I never felt uncomfortable,” she says. “We had many lunches together alone and worked together on many issues. His door was always open.”
And about Sharon Bialek, the Chicago woman who has accused Cain of groping her? Those are serious charges. “Putting his hand up her dress and forcing her head down? No friggin’ way,” Vachal says. “There is no way. No way. I bet my bottom dollar it’s false.”
“Nobody ever came to me and complained about him,” she says. “And trust me, they would have. We talked. There was nothing like what you see on Sex and the City, or those other shows. We were pretty boring in Omaha, Nebraska.”
“Women, especially then, had a lot to deal with in corporate America,” she says. “I knew of other things that went on, but there was never anything with him.”
“He was a true gentleman, always.”
— Robert Costa is a political reporter for National Review.