Herman Cain had a bad week last week. This week, there are pictures.
On Monday, a fourth woman accused Cain of sexually inappropriate behavior during his tenure with the National Restaurant Association. Represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, Sharon Bialek was revealed to the media in a live-television press conference, putting a name and face to her accusation. Until then, Cain’s accusers had remained anonymous. Bialek alleged the following:
She met Cain while employed by an educational offshoot of the National Restaurant Association. After being fired from her job, she called Cain at the suggestion of her then boyfriend in the hopes that Cain could assist her in finding a new job. Bialek said her boyfriend booked her a room at the Capitol Hilton. When she arrived, in July 1997, she found that she had been given a suite at the hotel. She met Cain in the hotel bar, where he told her that he had been responsible for the nicer room. “I upgraded you,” he allegedly said.
She said they then went to dinner at an Italian restaurant, where he asked her, “Why are you here?” When she told him about her job search, he said, “I’ll look into that.” After dinner, he drove her back to the hotel and offered to show her the National Restaurant Association offices. In the car, Cain put his hand under her skirt and attempted to pull her head toward his crotch. She asked him to back away. “You want a job, right?” she remembered him saying. She asked him to drive her back to the hotel, which he did.
The Cain campaign has categorically denied the latest allegation. “All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone,” the statement said. Allred said she had collected sworn statements from Bialek’s then boyfriend and an unnamed mentor, testifying to the fact that Bialek complained in 1997 about the harassment. Bialek said she did not previouslygo into detail about the harassment because she was embarrassed. Allred said Bialek does not plan to press charges against Cain or profit by selling her story. Allred said she was contacted by Bialek, who wanted to tell her story.
If true, the claim amounts to a charge of sexual assault, not simply harassment. Its graphic nature, combined with the fact that the source is on the record, providing television images for the story, will no doubt make the coming week as trying for Cain as last week. On Wednesday, Cain is expected to appear at a Republican-nomination debate in Michigan that will be televised on CNBC. There is little doubt that these allegations will continue to hang over every proceeding in the Republican presidential primary.