Herman Cain, one of the US presidential hopefuls, announced he is suspending his campaign for the Republican nomination.
Herman Cain blamed political and media pressure on his family in the wake of “false” allegations of sexual harassment and a 13-year-long extra-marital affair.
He told supporters in his home city of Atlanta, Georgia:
“I am not going to be silenced and I’m not going away.”
Next month, voters in Iowa will begin the process of choosing a Republican presidential candidate for 2012.
Herman Cain said the allegations against him had taken a toll on his family, but added: “I am at peace.”
“I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt caused on me and my family,” Herman Cain told supporters at what had been billed as the opening of his campaign headquarters.
“These false and unproved allegations continue to be spinned in the media and in the court of public opinion so as to create a cloud of doubt over me and this campaign and my family.”
Herman Cain said he would endorse another candidate at a later date but gave no hint of where he would direct his supporters to go.
On Friday, Herman Cain discussed with his wife, Gloria, whether to press on with his campaign.
Last week, an Atlanta woman, Ginger White, 46, came forward to claim she had a 13-year affair with him.
Speaking to MSNBC on Thursday, Ginger White denied they had been in love, saying: “It was a sexual affair – as hard as that is for me to say.”
While rejecting any suggestion of an affair with Ginger White, Herman Cain has acknowledged helping pay her monthly bills and expenses, and that his wife did not know about the friendship.
Sources say even before the questions arose about Herman Cain’s private life, there were doubts about his plans for tax reform and his understanding of foreign affairs.
The former pizza executive went from obscure long shot to unlikely frontrunner to tabloid fodder.
While Herman Cain’s ratings slumped, support for former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged.
Newt Gingrich has now overtaken frontrunner Mitt Romney in some opinion polls on who should be the Republican candidate to challenge Barack Obama for the White House in November 2012.
Within minutes of his speech, rival Republican candidates Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman, as well as Newt Gingrich, had tweeted their praise for Herman Cain.
“Herman Cain provided an important voice. His ideas & energy generated tremendous enthusiasm for the conservative movement,” Michele Bachmann tweeted.
Newt Gingrich tweeted: “I am proud to know Herman Cain and consider him a friend and I know he will continue to be a powerful voice for years to come.”
Herman Cain made his announcement before the series of state-by-state contests, known as primaries and caucuses, begins next month in Iowa to choose the Republican nominee.
Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive – who has never won an election – was propelled by conservative Tea Party support to the front of the Republican field in October.
Portraying himself as a business-savvy, anti-establishment outsider, Herman Cain captured the spotlight with his folksy charm and catchy 9-9-9 tax reform proposal.
Supporters were also alarmed when Herman Cain made confusing comments about abortion and badly fumbled a question on Libya policy in a recorded interview.