UPDATE: The Emanuel press office released a statement to Politico concerning the accusation. "Not only is the suggestion baseless and completely false, it is totally absurd," said Chris Mather, Emanuel's communications director.
The Rahm Emanuel administration was in full message control mode Thursday morning after a report in the Washington Times said the Chicago Mayor was behind leaked information about GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain's alleged sexual harassment claims.
"This story is patently false," a spokeswoman said during a phone call to NBCChicago ahead of an Emanuel press conference.
Despite the warning phone call, Emanuel was asked about why a source close to the Cain campaign said he leaked a story about sexual harassment claims to the Rick Perry campaign. During a 10 a.m. press conference related to "major changes" to the Chicago Transit Authority, Emanuel called the claims "baseless."
NBCChicago has not confirmed details of the Washington Times report which says:
According to a source who is friends with the Cain campaign, not only is the Rick Perry campaign involved but also the Mayor of Chicago and former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is likely involved with the sexual harassment accuser attacks. A friend of the Cain campaign believes a National Restaurant Association (NRA) employee out of the Chicago office leaked the story to the Perry campaign via information and influence from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.
Cain has been defending since Halloween against accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances to at least three women during his time as the head of the National Restaurant Association. At least one of the claims allegedly occurred during a trade show in Chicago in the 1990s.
At least one accuser asked Wednesday for permission from the NRA to break the terms of a confidentiality agreement and submit a statement concerning the incident.
After an initial phone call to NBCChicago, another Emanuel spokesperson called to deflect the story again.
"You're not doing a package on this really?" said press secretary Tarrah Cooper.