A Chicago woman just told reporters that in a 1997 encounter with 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain in Washington, D.C., he reached under her skirt and tried to pull her head toward his crotch.
A Cain spokesman calls the story “more false accusations.”
Sharon Bialek, who said she had come to Cain for employment advice, claimed he took her out to dinner and then in his car “suddenly reached over and put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals.” Then, she said, he “grabbed my head and brought it toward his crotch.”
When she objected, Bialek said, Cain said at first “you want a job, right?” Then he took her back to her hotel.
Bialek, who had met Cain because she worked for the National Restaurant Association at the same time he ran the organization, said she told two friends about the incident at the time. She didn’t pursue charges or tell others, she said, because she was “very embarrassed.”
She’s stepping forward now, Bialek said, “to give a face and a voice to those who maybe cannot.”
As we reported earlier, Bialek was brought to the media by attorney Gloria Allred. She is the first woman to come forward publicly, after a week of stories about unnamed women who accused the GOP candidate of sexual harassment in the late 1990s.
The complete statement from Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon:
“Just as the country finally begins to refocus on our crippling $15 trillion national debt and the unacceptably high unemployment rate, now activist celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred is bringing forth more false accusations against the character of Republican front-runner Herman Cain.
“All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone. Fortunately the American people will not allow Mr. Cain’s bold ‘9-9-9 Plan,’ clear foreign policy vision and plans for energy independence to be overshadowed by these bogus attacks.”
Update at 2:30 p.m. ET: Before Bialek spoke, Allred described her as being “a registered Republican … born and raised in Chicago .. mother of a 13-year-old-son” and former co-host of a TV cooking show.
Bialek said she had heard Cain speak in the late ’90s and found him “incredibly inspirational. … I said to him, ‘when are you running for president?’ ” It was about a month after that, she said, that she was fired from her job with the restaurant association’s educational foundation in Chicago. She called Cain in July 1997 to seek his advice on getting a new job, and that’s when they went to dinner in Washington.
Cain, she said, had arranged for her room at the Capitol Hilton to be upgraded to a suite.
Meanwhile, NPR’s Liz Halloran reports that attorney Joel Bennett, who represents one of the two women who received settlements from the restaurant association after accusing Cain of harassment, says his client is “doing fine,” and was aware that the press conference was happening.
But he declined to comment when asked if the behavior Bialek accused Cain of was similar to what his client’s late-1990s allegations against him.
“Mr. Cain’s behavior with my client involved multiple incidents over multiple days,” Bennett said. “I’m not authorized to divulge any more details at this time.”
Said Bennett: “But from my own perspective, it’s comforting to have someone else come out and corroborate the kind of conduct we’re talking about.”
There will be more coverage over at It’s All Politics.