A lawyer says some accusers want to publicly detail what happened to them
Cain says accusations are fabricated and intended to defeat his presidential bid
A lawyer for one accuser says there were multiple incidents of sexual harassment
At least two of the four women who have accused GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain of sexual harassment are considering holding a news conference to detail their accusations, their lawyers said Wednesday night.
Cain accuser Karen Kraushaar and her attorney Joel Bennett tried to organize a news conference with all four of the women, but Bennett said he had not made contact with the two women who have not publicly revealed their identities.
Bennett said attorney Gloria Allred indicated her client, Sharon Bialek, had expressed interest in participating. He told reporters Wednesday evening the news conference would likely proceed even if Kraushaar and Bialek were the only participants.
“We are still hopeful that they will have the courage to come forward, but we completely understand if they choose not to,” Kraushaar said Wednesday in a statement. “Anyone should be able to report allegations of sexual harassment without fear that their lives and careers will be put on public display and laid open to public scrutiny.”
Cain has repeatedly denied committing any sexual harassment against any woman.
In a statement, Cain campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon said, “There have been a number of interesting revelations that the public has learned about these women over the past few days. We hope the court of public opinion will take this into consideration as these women continue to try and keep this story alive.”
Bennett told CNN Wednesday his client wants to speak about the alleged incidents because “she really feels she has to give the details to make it clear that her complaint was not baseless or a fabrication, as Mr. Cain has stated in his press conference.”
Their plans for a news conference were forming as Herman Cain prepared Wednesday night to face a Republican presidential debate in Michigan.
Also Wednesday, a witness corroborated part of Bialek’s story – that she encountered Cain last month at a tea party event in Chicago and the two spoke for a few minutes then.
Cain said Tuesday he had no memory of Bialek, the only accuser to publicly describe misconduct by the GOP presidential hopeful, and he rejected the allegations as a politically motivated attempt to discredit his front-running campaign.
“They simply didn’t happen. They simply did not happen,” Cain insisted of the accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior, and at least one incident of alleged sexual groping, when he was head of the National Restaurant Association from 1996 to 1999.
He described Bialek, a Chicago woman who once worked at the restaurant group, as a “troubled” woman put up to making false allegations by forces trying to derail his presidential bid.
Cain said it could be the “Democrat machine” behind the allegations but added that he didn’t know for sure. He also said he expected further attempts to smear his name and reputation and vowed that he would not be deterred.
“As far as these accusations causing me to back off and maybe withdraw from this presidential primary race? Ain’t going to happen,” Cain said.
It is unclear how the controversy might affect Wednesday’s debate, scheduled to be held Wednesday night at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. The topic of the debate is supposed to be the economy, but lately all the headlines about Cain have been about the sexual harassment allegations.
Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said he hopes the subject matter can change.
“I hope for Republicans’ sake we can get back to talking about the economy, about jobs, deficit, debt, taxes,” Barbour said.
The sexual harassment accusations have dominated Cain’s campaign since they were first reported October 30 by Politico. He had surged to the top of the polls with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but now faces questions about his moral fiber as well as his campaign’s ability to deal with the controversy.
In an online essay Wednesday, Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation called for Cain to drop out of the race because of his failure to organize an effective campaign response to the accusations.
“If Cain cannot manage his own campaign, what is he going to do with the country?” Phillips asked in the essay. “It is time for him to leave the race.”
Kraushaar, one of the women cited in the Politico report, told CNN Tuesday that Cain is a “serial denier.” Kraushaar said she wants to meet with the other accusers about their cases.
Kraushaar and another woman, who remains unidentified, received payouts upon leaving the restaurant association after complaining about alleged sexual harassment by Cain.
Bennett said Wednesday that Kraushaar, who has worked in communications for the federal government since her departure from the association, complained in 1999 of multiple incidents of alleged sexual harassment by Cain.
The restaurant association said it investigated the accusations at the time and Cain denied them, Bennett noted. However, he said an internal investigation by the association of alleged wrongdoing by its president was likely to have been less effective than an outside investigation would have been.
Bialek detailed Monday to reporters an alleged unwanted sexual advance by Cain shortly after she was laid off by the association’s education foundation in 1997. She said Cain reached up her dress and shoved her head toward his crotch.
Cain told her, “You want a job, right?” but stopped his advances when she protested, Bialek said.
In an earlier interview with ABC News, Cain responded “yes” when asked whether Bialek was lying when she said at a news conference Monday that Cain made an unwanted sexual advance in 1997.
Saying he remembered neither Bialek nor the alleged incident, the 65-year-old Republican added, “I have absolutely not acted inappropriately with this woman or anyone else in my entire life.”
A Chicago radio host, Amy Jacobson, said Wednesday she saw Cain and Bialek talking together last month at a tea party event. The account by Jacobson, of AM 560 WIND radio, matched Bialek’s description of the encounter, raising questions about Cain’s insistence that he had no memory of meeting or knowing Bialek.
Regarding Kraushaar, Cain said the only complaint he could recall involved a comment he made that she was about the same height as his wife, as he held his hand up to his chin.
He said Kraushaar’s complaints were found to have been baseless at the time, and the restaurant association negotiated a severance agreement with her rather than a legal settlement regarding any sexual harassment charges.
However, Kraushaar told CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger that the height remark was not the basis for her complaint. And, Kraushaar added, she received a $46,000 sexual harassment settlement, rather than a severance agreement.
Kraushaar also lodged a workplace complaint against her next employer – the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In the CNN interview Tuesday night, she called it a “minor incident” in which she complained she was not allowed to telecommute while recovering from a car accident, something a colleague was doing.
Knowing her life story is now under a microscope, she admitted she might not have been a perfect employee but said she was a good and hard worker.
“They’re looking under every rock trying to dig up dirt,” Kraushaar said. “There really isn’t much.”
Kraushaar said she would like to organize a joint press conference some time in the near future with some of the other women. “There is safety in numbers,” she said. “It is important that it happen in one conference.”
“He comes before you today to defend his reputation,” said Wood, who has previously represented vindicated Olympic Park bombing suspect Richard Jewell and John and Patsy Ramsey, parents of child murder victim JonBenet Ramsey. “A reputation that he has built over 40 years of being a good and decent man and a successful business person. I ask you at least afford him fairness.”
Bialek said earlier Tuesday that a reason she came forward with her account of Cain’s alleged misbehavior 14 years after the fact was encouragement from her 13-year-old son.
“He said, ‘Mom, I think you need to do the right thing. I think you need to tell on him,’ ” Bialek said on CNN’s “American Morning.” “That confirmed it for me. If my son is saying it, I want to be the role model for him and other kids growing up.”
Bialek’s story was the first public, detailed account of alleged misbehavior by Cain. She alleged that Cain groped her following a dinner in 1997, shortly after she was laid off by the restaurant association.
CNN’s Greg Clary, Tom Cohen, Ashley Killough, Kevin Bohn, Kevin Liptak, Gloria Borger and Shannon Travis contributed to this report.