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11.08.11

Cain Denies New Harassment Charge

The candidate says he can’t remember Sharon Bialek and rips her as a 'troubled woman.' Howard Kurtz on his latest attempt to stop the political bleeding. Plus, read Andrew Sullivan’s live blog of the presser.

Herman Cain, speaking slowly, deliberately, and seriously, flatly denied the latest sexual-harassment allegations by Sharon Bialek, insisting Tuesday that “I don’t even know who this woman is.”

The presidential candidate declared, without offering evidence, that “the Democrat machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman to make accusations.” He later admitted he lacked “definitive factual proof” for that charge. Cain said the events in Bialek’s account—that in 1997 he put his hand under her skirt and tried to force her head toward his crotch when she was seeking a job—“simply did not happen.”

Cain’s attempts to declare “end of story” to the flood of allegations has repeatedly failed, and he will undoubtedly be forced to address the matter at a debate sponsored by CNBC on Wednesday night.

Speaking to reporters in Arizona before a row of American flags as he tried to take control of a narrative that has paralyzed his campaign, Cain cast the situation as a test of leadership. The idea of the accusations “causing me to back off and maybe withdraw from this presidential primary race, ain’t gonna happen.”

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Bialek, a 50-year-old single mother, is represented by Gloria Allred, a liberal crusader and Democratic donor who also represented a woman who received explicit sexual messages from former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner. Bialek is a single mother who has twice declared bankruptcy, according to the Chicago Tribune. “One would have to ask whether in fact that might not have been a motivation,” Cain said.

The Trib piece that after Bialek’s second bankruptcy, in 2001, “she accused a former boyfriend of harassing her for repayment of a loan.”

Cain’s insistence that he could not even recall Bialek’s face or voice set up a classic "he said, she said" situation reminiscent of the Clarence Thomas–Anita Hill confrontation two decades ago: one of them is lying. Allred says she has affidavits from two people whom Bialek told at the time, although not in detail, of the alleged incident in a parked car.

After her televised news conference Monday, Bialek appeared on CNN and on the ABC, NBC, and Fox News morning shows—a media tour criticized by Cain’s lawyer, Lin Wood, who said Cain had been unfairly subjected to “hearsay,” “rumor,” and “speculation.”

Asked about allegations by another woman, Karen Kraushaar, who received a settlement from the National Restaurant Association, which Cain headed in the late 1990s, Cain said her account was found “baseless” and handled by an “agreement” with the restaurant association. Kraushaar, a communications director for the Treasury Department’s inspector general, had been one of three anonymous women who leveled accusations at the candidate. She went public Tuesday after she was identified by the Rupert Murdoch iPad publication The Daily. Kraushaar, like Bialek, is white.

Kraushaar told the New York Times she was upset about being named.

“When you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, you are extremely vulnerable,” she said. “You do whatever you can to quickly get yourself into a job someplace safe, and that is what I thought I had achieved when I left.”

Cain’s insistence that he could not even recall Bialek’s face or voice set up a classic "he said, she said" situation reminiscent of the Clarence Thomas–Anita Hill confrontation.

Cain said again that the only thing he could remember saying to Kraushaar that might have been interpreted as inappropriate was that she was the same height as his wife.

Cain’s wife of 43 years, Gloria, has remained silent throughout the controversy, canceling a scheduled interview last Friday with Fox’s Greta Van Susteren. The candidate said he had called his wife after Bialek’s news conference and that she replied, “That doesn’t even sound like anything you would do to anyone.” Bialek said that when she protested Cain’s sexual advances and reminded him she had a boyfriend, he responded: “You want a job, right?”

Cain took one swipe at the news business, saying that “nine days ago the media started to beat me up.” He said that some journalists have “stalked my family members” and asked the press to respect their privacy.

While he did not repeat language that he was being singled out for unfair treatment as an African-American, Cain attributed the charges to the fact that “some people don’t want to see Herman Cain get the Republican nomination.”