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Herman Cain accuser goes public with sexual harassment claim

Her appearance intensifies allegations against the Republican presidential candidate, whose campaign again denies all of the accusations.

November 07, 2011|By Robin Abcarian and Geraldine Baum, Los Angeles Times

Bialek did not come forward in 1997, Allred said, because she was no longer an employee of the restaurant association when the incident took place. But Allred held up two sheets of paper she said were the sworn affidavits of Bialek's then-boyfriend and a businessman friend, both of whom Allred said were told by Bialek about the encounter at the time. Bialek said she did not share the graphic details with either man because she was "embarrassed."

At the news conference, Bialek, who wore a black, knee-length dress, spoke haltingly from a statement. The first time she heard Cain give a speech, she said, was the keynote address at a luncheon for high school students during the restaurant association's annual convention in Chicago.

"He was incredibly inspirational," she said. "When he sat down, I said, 'When are you running for president?' '' That meeting inspired her later request for his assistance in finding a new job, she said.

Bialek said she had not seen Cain since the 1997 incident until about a month ago at a tea party conference sponsored by a Chicago radio station.

"I did not know that he would be there," she said. "I went up to him and asked if he remembered me. I wanted to see if he would be man enough to own up to what he had done some 14 years ago." She said Cain said he remembered her and "looked uncomfortable."

Since they were first raised a week ago, the accusations against Cain have unleashed a torrent of disbelief and anger from his supporters. Some high-profile backers have claimed that Cain is the victim of liberals trying to bring down a black conservative by playing on racial stereotypes about black men.

Many Republicans have said they put no credence in accounts by unnamed women. But this latest twist, with its level of specificity, could change that.

"This is the first time that a real live person has come forward and made specific allegations, so this may cause people to take a second look at these charges," said veteran Republican strategist Charlie Black.

A longtime Democratic strategist who worked for President Clinton during his intern sex scandal had a more dire prediction.

"Cain is a largely an undefined personality, and elections almost always come down to character and, specifically, who the public trusts," said the strategist, Chris Lehane. The developments could hurt Cain among "Republican family value voters who have historically been moved by issues that go to personal moral rectitude."

Cain's campaign sought to turn attention on Allred, the Los Angeles lawyer who has often represented women claiming to be mistreated by powerful men, including Tiger Woods, Roman Polanski and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The news conference with Bialek took place in the same room at the Friar's Club where Allred appeared months ago with a woman who claimed to have had a sexually tinged electronic relationship with former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat.

Abcarian reported from Los Angeles and Baum from New York.

Times staff writers Tom Hamburger and Maeve Reston and Tribune reporters Lisa Black and Katherine Skiba contributed to this report.

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