A fourth woman made sexual harassment claims against Republican US presidential hopeful Herman Cain on Monday, the first to do so publicly. Sharon Bialek told a press conference that Cain made inappropriate advances in 1997, claims his camp denies.
AP - A woman who said she sought help finding a job from Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain went before television cameras Monday to add her voice to anonymous sexual harassment allegations by three others, accusing the novice politician of reaching under her skirt for her genitals and pulling her head toward his crotch.
Sharon Bialek said she had come forward about the incident in 1997 to provide “a face and a voice” to support other accusers who have so far remained anonymous in their charges against Cain, one of the Republican presidential frontrunners.
“Come clean,” Bialek challenged Cain, demanding he confess to any inappropriate behavior with her or other women.
Cain’s campaign instantly issued a denial. "All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are false," it said.
Bialek, who was introduced at the New York news conference by lawyer Gloria Allred, said she had worked for the educational foundation of the National Restaurant Association in 1996-1997. Cain was head of the trade group at the time.
Bialek was terminated by the foundation but had become acquainted with Cain at official functions in the presence, she said, of her physician boyfriend. After she was let go by the foundation she said the boyfriend suggested she ask Cain’s help in finding another job. She said she traveled to Washington in July 1997 to meet personally with Cain.
Her boyfriend booked her a room at the Washington Hilton Hotel but when she arrived she was shown to a suite of rooms. Later, as they met at the hotel bar and later spoke over dinner at an Italian restaurant, she said, Cain told her he was responsible for her room upgrade. After dinner she said Cain drove her back toward the hotel by way, she said, of the building that housed the restaurant association.
He parked the car some distance from the building, she said, and while parked on the street Cain asked why she was in Washington. Bialek said she told Cain that her boyfriend had recommended she ask him for help with a job since he had appeared on past occasions to like her.
Cain then, Bialek said, reached under her skirt for her genitals and pulled her head toward his crotch.
She said she asked what he was doing and he responded, “You want a job don’t you?”
After she objected to his advance, Bialek said, Cain drove her back to her hotel.
Bialek said she did not file a workplace complaint against Cain at the time because she was no longer employed at the foundation of the restaurant association.
Allred showed but did not release what she said were copies of sworn statements from Bialek’s then physician boyfriend and another friend, a businessman, who attested under oath that the accuser had told them about the incident shortly afterward. Neither man was named.
Allred, a high-profile lawyer who specializes in discrimination, said Bialek is a stay-at-home mother of a 13 year-old son. They live in Chicago. Allred did not explain how Bialek supports herself and her son.
As if to blunt any attacks on her client’s motives, the attorney described Bialek as a registered Republican, and a woman with a long and successful work history.
The new and specific allegations raise the scandal to a new level and while most of Cain’s fellow Republican hopefuls must be silently enjoying the bubbling and highly public accusations surrounding Cain, they likely aren’t happy that the focus on his candidacy has drawn attention from them.
The huge distraction is occurring less than two months before the first votes are cast in the process to nominate a challenger to Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012.
Even fellow front-runner Mitt Romney, the favorite of the Republican establishment, had trouble generating much attention when he gave a significant Washington speech on Friday about cutting government spending and overhauling Medicare, the government health insurance program for Americans of retirement age -- both key issues for the party’s candidates.
While Cain initially blamed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign for leaking the initial sexual harassment allegations and significant payouts to the women who lodged them, he has since backed off that charge, choosing instead to attack the news media for paying too much attention to charges he has denied.
The three original accusers, who worked with Cain when he was head of the restaurant association, fear damage to their reputations and careers. Cain apparently had believed that his silence going forward would cause the allegations to fade from relevance.
Until Monday, polls indicated the scandal had not cut into Cain’s support, which has him neck-and-neck with Romney at the top of the Republican heap, and the candidate has been hauling in donations that far outstrip his fundraising before the allegations became public.
Perry, once seen as the best hope of the conservative tea party wing of the Republicans, has disappeared from news reports with the exception of a video of a bizarre appearance in the state of New Hampshire, raising questions about his sobriety at the event.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the candidate with the biggest campaign bankroll, continues to cruise along, staying away from reporters and apparently comfortable with his level of support -- banking on challengers like Cain and Perry to self-destruct along the way.
Date created : 2011-11-07