Wednesday, 09 November 2011 09:54

Cain Addresses Accusations in Press Conference

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On Tuesday night, GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain issued a formal response to the sexual harassment allegations levied by Sharon Bialek and his other accusers. During a news conference held in Phoenix, Cain declared the accusations to be “baseless” and in the case of Bialek, motivated by money. Any claims asserted by Bialek, according to Cain, “simply did not happen” because he contends he does not recognize Bialek. 

Days ago, Bialek became the fourth woman to come forward and make charges against Cain, and the first to go public. During a New York City press conference on Monday, the Chicago woman claimed that Cain made aggressive sexual advances toward her in July 1997 after she had asked him for help finding employment. The Washington Post reports:

After being let go by the NRA foundation, Bialek, who had met Cain on several occasions during conferences and at a dinner, reached out to Cain to obtain guidance on getting a new job. The NRA confirmed on Monday afternoon that Bialek had worked for its education foundation from December 1996 to June 1997.

According to Bialek, Cain put his hand under her skirt and reached for her genitals. She adds that Cain pushed her head toward his crotch while they were in a car. She claims that she responded to these advances by saying, “This isn’t what I came here for, Mr. Cain.” She claims that his response to her statement was, “You want a job, right?”

Bialek indicates that she did not file sexual harassment claims against Cain at the time of the incident, nor does she intend to seek legal action against the Georgia businessman, but instead wanted to “give a face and a voice to those women who cannot or for whatever reason, do not wish to come forward.”

During Tuesday’s press conference, Cain said:

I tried to remember if I recognized her, and I didn’t. I tried to remember if I remembered that name, and I didn’t. The charges and the accusations, I absolutely reject. They simply didn’t happen.

 Cain indicates that the allegations launched by Bialek and the other three women are products of his critics who do not want to see him secure the Republican nomination for the upcoming presidential election. "The fact is these anonymous allegations are false and now the Democratic machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman to make false accusations, statements many of which exceed common sense and they certainly exceed the standards of decency in America," he said.

Standing beside his lawyer, Lin Wood of Atlanta, on Tuesday, Cain implied that Bialek is entirely motivated by money. He took the opportunity to criticize her attorney, Gloria Allred, who has a reputation for taking on high-profile cases and for being a supporter of Democratic politicians.

Bialek denies Cain’s accusations, claiming she has no financial motivation. "I was not paid to come forward, nor was I promised any employment. Nothing at all," Bialek said on ABC's Good Morning America. "I'm just doing this because it's the right thing to do."

Cain told reports at the press conference in Phoenix that he would be “willing to do a lie detector test” to prove his innocence if necessary.

Also on Tuesday, Karen Kraushaar came forward and said that she was in fact one of the women who accused Cain of sexual harassment, and who received a financial settlement from the National Restaurant Association upon resignation from the company.

USA Today reports, “Kraushaar, 55, said in an email to USA Today that she came forward after reporters began to question her about the incident.”

Kraushaar indicates that she would be willing to appear with the other three women in public so that they may all present their stories and “the court of public opinion can consider the allegations as a body of evidence.”

But according to Cain, there is only one incident that he can recall wherein she may have felt offended. "I can only recall one thing that I was aware of that was called sexual harassment," he said. "One day in my office … I was standing next to (her) and I gestured … and said you're the same height as my wife."

"When she made her accusations, they were found to be baseless and she could not find anyone to corroborate her story," Cain said.

Kraushaar gives her own explanation for why that was the case. "The reason sexual harassment is so difficult to prove is that workplace sexual predators try to make sure the victim is alone when the harassment takes place," Kraushaar said. "The incidents in question occurred many years ago, but corroboration may still be possible with respect to some of the incidents, and in some cases it may even be possible to find witnesses."

It was later revealed to the Associated Press that Kraushaar had also filed a complaint at her next job after her position at the National Restaurant Association. Employed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Justice Department, she filed a complaint in late 2002 or early 2003, asserting that she should be permitted to work from home after a serious car accident and accusing her manager of circulating a sexually charged e-mail.

CBS News writes:

To settle the complaint at the immigration service, Kraushaar initially demanded thousands of dollars in payment, a reinstatement of leave she used after the accident earlier in 2002, promotion on the federal pay scale and a one-year fellowship to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, according to a former supervisor familiar with the complaint. The promotion itself would have increased her annual salary between $12,000 and $16,000, according to salary tables in 2002 from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Kraushaar explains that she later dropped the charges, and called the complaint “relatively minor.”

"The concern was that there may have been discrimination on the job and that I was being treated unfairly," Kraushaar said.

Still, some believe that it undermines her credibility in her case against Cain. CBS News explains, “Details of the workplace complaint that Kraushaar made at the immigration service are relevant because they could offer insights into how she responded to conflicts at work.”

Whether these accusations will prove to have a long-lasting impact on Cain's political career remains to be seen. Conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway believes that Cain’s campaign has been handling the entire scandal poorly. “We need to remember who is running for president and who is not,” said Conway. “Some people may think Cain is becoming a bit of a liability and would make him hard to support.”

Cain acknowledged this, however. Referring to his supporters, he said, "Many of them have expressed their outpouring support for the fact that these incidents simply did not happen," he said. "So rebuilding the trust on the part of some people, yes, that would be a challenge."

Photo of Sharon Bialek: AP Images

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