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Cain struggles to right his ship

Even as he attacks one accuser's credibility, another who'd been anonymous comes forward publicly.

November 09, 2011|Robin Abcarian and Michael Finnegan
  • Herman Cain addresses the media at a news conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., that focused on Sharon Bialeks sexual harassment accusations against him.
Herman Cain addresses the media at a news conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.,… (Darryl Webb, Associated…)

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ., LOS ANGELES, AND WASHINGTON — The more forcefully Herman Cain fights to save his presidential campaign, the more events spiral out of the candidate's control.

After days in which he refused to discuss sexual harassment accusations against him, Cain reversed himself and starred in a nationally televised news conference at which he cast one of his accusers as "a troubled woman" and said he had "never acted inappropriately with anyone, period."

But as he was preparing to speak, one woman who had leveled such charges anonymously against Cain came forward publicly. Later her lawyer said that a news conference would soon be held by the woman, a U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman named Karen Kraushaar, and an Illinois woman, Sharon Bialek, who on Monday accused Cain of groping her 14 years ago.

The explosive controversy seemed unlikely to ease soon, as even Cain predicted that opponents would summon more complainants in coming days.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, November 13, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Herman Cain: An article in the Nov. 9 Section A about Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain quoted Cain as saying that a woman's allegation that he had groped her was brought forth by "the Democratic machine in America." Cain actually blamed the controversy on the "Democrat machine in America."

At the news conference in Scottsdale, where he was raising money for his presidential campaign, Cain firmly denied all allegations about his behavior.

"The charges and the accusations, I absolutely reject," Cain said. "They simply didn't happen. They simply did not happen."

Cain said he would be willing to take a lie detector test to clear his name. But in a sign of the damage already inflicted on his bid for the Republican nomination, Cain raised the possibility of abandoning the race -- if only to shoot down the idea himself.

"As far as these accusations causing me to back off, and maybe withdraw from this presidential primary race -- ain't going to happen," he said.

The emergence of Kraushaar stopped any momentum Cain might have sought from his Tuesday appearance. As an employee of the National Restaurant Assn. in the late 1990s, she complained of sexual harassment by Cain when he was the group's president and chief executive.

Kraushaar received a cash payment from the group in 1999 after signing an agreement that barred her from discussing the complaint that she filed against Cain. In recent days the restaurant organization allowed her attorney to release a statement confirming her complaint, but she did not come forward publicly until her name was circulated Tuesday by news organizations. CNN quoted Kraushaar as telling the woman who hired her from the association that Cain was a "monster."

Her attorney, Joel P. Bennett, said Kraushaar and Bialek and their attorneys would soon meet publicly.

"My client has decided to hold a joint news conference with as many of the women who complained of sexual harassment by Herman Cain as will participate," he said, adding that Bialek would be present. Two other women anonymously complained about Cain, and one of them also received a settlement from the restaurant group.

In Scottsdale, Cain called Kraushaar's allegations "baseless."

But his main focus was Bialek, who appeared alongside attorney Gloria Allred in New York to assert that Cain had put his hand up her skirt and tried to push her face into his crotch. The incident, she said, took place after they drove from a dinner at which she had sought employment advice. At the time -- the same period in which the other complaints were made -- she had just been laid off from a restaurant association affiliate.

Cain said he could not remember meeting Bialek, much less taking her to dinner and making sexual advances toward her.

"The fact is these anonymous allegations are false, and now the Democratic machine in America has brought forth this troubled woman to make false accusations, statements, many of which exceed common sense," Cain said.

He had previously blamed disclosure of the sexual harassment complaints on an aide to Republican presidential rival Rick Perry, governor of Texas.

On Tuesday, Cain also suggested he was the target of false allegations by lobbyists and others who did not want a businessman to challenge the status quo in Washington. Cain, who oversaw the restaurant association's lobbying operation in Washington, said more allegations might emerge in the days or weeks ahead.

"There will probably be others, not because I am aware of any, but because the machine to keep a businessman out of the White House is going to be relentless," he said.

The allegations of sexual harassment have consumed Cain's campaign since Oct. 30, when Politico reported that at least two female employees at the restaurant association -- one of them now known to be Kraushaar -- had complained of inappropriate behavior by Cain.

Until then, Cain was best known for his "9-9-9" plan to overhaul and simplify the federal tax code. The tax plan, along with his folksy style, vaulted him to the front of the party's pack of presidential contenders, alongside former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

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