Herman Cain denied detailed claims of inappropriate sexual behavior made by a fourth woman yesterday and said he won’t quit the Republican presidential race.
“I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period,” Cain said at a news conference today in Scottsdale, Arizona. He said he saw his most recent accuser, Sharon Bialek, and her lawyer “for the very first time” at Bialek’s news conference yesterday in New York.
“I tried to remember if I recognized her, and I didn’t,” he said.
Bialek, a single mother from Chicago, accused Cain, the head of the National Restaurant Association in the late-1990s, of groping her after she sought his help in finding a job after she was fired from the organization in 1997.
A second accuser, Karen Kraushaar, went public today, identifying herself as one of two women who worked in the Washington office of the restaurant association who had made sexual harassment claims against Cain. Kraushaar currently is a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department.
Kraushaar was the only one of the accusers he recalls who made a formal complaint against him, Cain said at the news conference.
“It was found to be baseless,” he said, stressing that no legal action resulted from the complaint. “It was treated as a personnel matter because there was no basis to her accusations.”
Kraushaar reached a financial settlement with the restaurant group, leaving her job there with a $45,000 payment.
She told the Washington Post today she is interested in being part of a press conference featuring the women making the claims against Cain, “where we would all be together with our attorneys and all of these allegations could be reviewed as a collective body of evidence.”
A lawyer for Cain, Lin Wood, told the Arizona news conference that the candidate finds himself “on trial in the court of public opinion.” He then introduced Cain, who made a statement before taking questions.
In response to a question, Cain said he’d be willing to take a lie detector test if he had “good reason” to do so.
Speaking at her news conference yesterday in New York, Bialek said Cain reached under the skirt of her suit for her genitals and pushed her head toward his crotch after a dinner meeting to discuss her job search.
“You want a job, right?” Bialek said Cain told her when she objected to his behavior.
Cain said today the “Democrat machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman” to make false accusations against him, and that he will “vigorously defend my reputation.”
Bialek’s allegations, carried live on national television, heighten the difficulties Cain faces as he works to maintain his position as the leading challenger to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the Republican race.
Bialek was the first woman to publicly accuse the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive officer of inappropriate sexual behavior while he was head of the Washington-based National Restaurant Association.
Bialek, identified as a Republican by her lawyer, Gloria Allred of Los Angeles, said she first met Cain at a restaurant association convention. After she was let go by the group’s Chicago-based educational foundation about a month later, she said she contacted him for help in finding a new job. The two decided to meet in July 1997 in Washington, she said.
When she checked into a Washington hotel, she said she was surprised to discover she had been given a “palatial suite” rather than a standard room. Cain later told her that he had “upgraded” her, she said.
After discussing her job search with Cain over dinner, he offered to drive Bialek to the group’s office building for a tour of the national headquarters, she said.
Hand on Leg
“Instead of going into the offices, he suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg, under my skirt and reached for my genitals,” while the two of them were in the car, she said.
“He also grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch,” she said, her voice shaking.
Bialek said she asked Cain to stop, which he did. She said she didn’t file a sexual harassment complaint because she was no longer employed by the association.
Allred, a sex-discrimination lawyer known for representing high-profile accusers, told reporters yesterday that Bialek isn’t publicizing her claims in hopes of making money.
“She could have attempted to sell her story but chose not to do so,” Allred said.
In a telephone interview with CNN after Cain’s press conference, Allred suggested the U.S. Senate should subpoena the Republican candidate and his accusers to testify under penalty of perjury.
Bialek twice filed for bankruptcy protection, first in 1991 and again in 2001, according to court records. In the 2001 petition, Bialek listed about $14,000 in credit card debt and $17,273.76 in legal fees owed to an attorney who represented her in a suit seeking child support, according to court records.
“I was not paid to come forward,” Bialek said in an interview on Good Morning America today. Allred, she said, took her case for free.
Cain’s campaign today attacked Bialek in a statement that highlighted her bankruptcy filings and what it said was a history by her of filing civil lawsuits. The statement also targeted Allred.
“The fact is that Ms. Bialek has had a long and troubled history, from the courts to personal finances -- which may help explain why she has come forward 14 years after an alleged incident with Mr. Cain, powered by celebrity attorney and long-term Democrat donor Gloria Allred,” the statement said.
According to federal bankruptcy court records in Chicago, Bialek has been a party to two asset-liquidating Chapter 7 proceedings, one filed in 1991, the other 10 years later.
A review of state civil court records confirms Cain’s statement that a woman named Sharon Bialek has been a party defendant in six lawsuits. Three, filed in 2000, the year before Cain’s accuser filed her second bankruptcy court petition, have been archived by the court and are unavailable for review.
A woman named Sharon L. Bialek was sued in 2007 for $1,000.27 by Midland Funding LLC in what court records call a “contract complaint.” Action in the case ended in February 2009 when the plaintiff was unable to serve a complaint upon the defendant, according to the Cook County, Illinois, Civil Court docket.
Two other contract cases have been filed against a Sharon Bialek in the same Chicago-based court. In one, plaintiff Mark Beatovic obtained a $3,900 default judgment in April 2005. In the other, an entity called Illinois Lending won a $3,359 judgment in 2009 and was seeking assets with which to satisfy it as recently as August.
Politico reported last month that two other women who had worked at the restaurant association had filed formal sexual harassment complaints against Cain and were paid settlements for their claims. Both women signed confidentiality agreements barring them from discussing details of the incidents.
Joel Bennett, a lawyer representing one of the women, said in a Nov. 5 statement to reporters that she had complained about a “series of inappropriate behaviors” and “unwanted advances.”
Bennett represents Kraushaar.
Cain aides say the allegations aren’t slowing momentum for his presidential bid. He raised $1.6 million in the five days after the harassment claims surfaced in an Oct. 30 article in Politico, his campaign reported.
National surveys of the Republican race show him still vying with Romney for first place, as he was before the complaints emerged. A USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday found the two men each backed by 21 percent of self-identified Republican and Republican-leaning voters.
A third woman told the Associated Press on Nov. 3 that she considered filing a complaint against Cain for what she considered aggressive behavior, including inviting her to his corporate apartment.
Romney today termed the harassment allegations “particularly disturbing” in an interview with ABC News.
“Any time there is an accuser that comes forward with charges of this nature you recognize this is a very serious matter and it should be taken seriously,” he said. Romney added, “I don’t have any counsel for Herman Cain or for his campaign; they have to take their own counsel on this.”