ROCHESTER, Mich. (AP) - Businessman Herman Cain is continuing to defend himself against accusations that he sexually harassed women when he led a Washington trade group more than a decade ago.
"The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion due to unfounded accusations," Cain said when the question came up early in the Republican debate. "I value my character and my integrity more than anything else. And for every one person that comes forward with an unfair accusation there are probably, there are thousands who come forward and say none of that ever happened with Herman Cain."
Cain says that since the allegations surfaced more than a week ago, "voters have voted with their dollars," and supported his campaign.
Romney, a former venture capitalist, was asked if he would keep Cain on the job as a CEO given the accusations. He responded, "Herman Cain is the person to respond to these questions. He just did."
The questions about the Cain allegations generated boos from the audience at Oakland University.
Cain walks back "Princess Nancy" comment
After the debate, Cain apologized for calling the House minority leader "Princess Nancy” during Wednesday’s debate. After the debate, he told CNBC he "probably should not have made" that comment.
Cain said Nancy Pelosi blocked any effort when she was speaker of the House to repeal Democrats' health care overhaul, legislation she helped marshal through. Republicans have since captured control of the House during 2010s midterm elections.
Earlier on Twitter, the former pizza company executive repeated the "Princess Nancy" label as the debate continued. Politico also reports Cain previously used the same mockery on his radio show. The outlet, owned by the same company as WJLA, had previously broken news of allegations of sexual harassment against Cain.
On the economy: Europe should focus on itself
The announced topic for the evening was the economy, a subject that produced few if any early sparks among rivals who often spar energetically.
Republican rivals agreed that Europe's countries should rise or fall on their own without any American bailout and warned that failing to cut budget deficits at home would doom the U.S. to the same sort of crisis that now plagues Greece and Italy.
"Europe is able to take care of their own problems. We don't want to step in and bail out their banks and their economies," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said as he and GOP rivals met for the first time in three weeks in campaign debate.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was more emphatic about Europe's debt. "You have to let it liquidate. We took 40 years to build up this worldwide debt," he added.
Cain said there wasn't much the United States could do to directly to help Italy at present because the economy there is in such difficult shape. "We need to focus on the economy or we will fail," he said, referring to the U.S. and calling for spending cuts, a strong dollar and measures to stimulate growth.
On the next page: Bachmann slams Fannie and Freddie
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum joined Romney, Cain, Paul and Huntsman on stage at Oakland University in Michigan, a state where unemployment is 11.1 percent and well above the national 9 percent jobless rate.
The debate took place less than two months before Iowa's kickoff caucuses, as the pace of campaign activity accelerates and public opinion polls suggest the race remains quite fluid. Romney and Cain currently share co-front-runner status in most surveys, with Perry and Gingrich roughly tied for third, within striking distance.
Not surprisingly, none of the contenders found much to like in President Barack Obama's economic stewardship. Perry said the next president should systematically judge all of the government regulations enacted since Obama took office on a standard of whether they created jobs. Any that failed should be repealed, he said.
Bachmann sharply criticized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. She said the latter had recently given multimillion-dollar bonuses to executives even though it was seeking a new federal bailout.
Gingrich, who last held public office more than a decade ago, bristled when asked what advice his company had given Freddie Mac for a $300,000 fee. "Advice on precisely what they didn't do," he shot back - stop backing mortgages to applicants who aren't credit-worthy.
The government rescued mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September 2008 to cover their losses on soured mortgage loans. Since then, a federal regulator has controlled their financial decisions.