4th Woman Accuses Cain Of Sexual Harassment

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A Chicago woman came forward Monday to publicly accuse Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of making an unwanted sexual advance toward her in 1997 during his stint as head of the National Restaurant Association. This new claim marks a shift in the story, which up until this point, pitted the claims of three anonymous women against a candidate who firmly denied allegations of sexual harassment. Cain's campaign is questioning the motives of the accuser and her attorney.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.

When a Chicago woman came out yesterday to publicly accuse Herman Cain of an unwanted sexual advance, it marked a shift in this story. Up to that point, the three previous accusations had been anonymous. The Republican presidential candidate has firmly denied all the accusations of harassment, including yesterday's, which the woman claimed had occurred in 1997, when Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association.

Cain has now scheduled a press conference for later today. And as NPR's Tamara Keith reports, his campaign is questioning the motives of the latest accuser and her high-profile attorney. A warning: This story contains descriptions of a sexual nature.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Sharon Bialek stepped up to a podium in a room packed full of cameras and reporters. She put on a pair of reading glasses, and recounted a very uncomfortable experience with Herman Cain. She says she turned to Cain for help after losing her job at the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

Bialek says she came to D.C. to see him. After drinks at her hotel's bar, she says Cain took her to an Italian restaurant.

SHARON BIALEK: During dinner, Mr. Cain looked at me and said, why are you here? I said, actually Herman, my boyfriend, whom you met, suggested that I meet with you and - because he thought you could help me, 'cause I really need a job.

KEITH: On the drive back to her hotel, Bialek says Cain stopped the car near the association's headquarter. She says he suddenly reached over and put his hand up her skirt. She says he also pushed her head toward his lap. Bialek says she was shocked and asked him what he was doing.

BIALEK: Mr. Cain said: You want a job, right? I asked him to stop and he did. I asked him to take me back to my hotel, which he did - right away.

KEITH: Bialek says she came forward to give a face and a voice to other women who can't or won't share their experiences.

BIALEK: I want you, Mr. Cain, to come clean. Just admit what you did. Admit you were inappropriate to people.

KEITH: Herman Cain isn't admitting any wrongdoing. He appeared on the late-night show "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on ABC last night, and said steam was coming out of his ears, he was so angry watching the press conference.


HERMAN CAIN: And then, when it was all over with, I says well, I know what we got to do - because there is not an ounce of truth in all of these accusations. And my team is putting this stuff together. That's why I'm willing to do a press conference tomorrow, to set the record straight.

KEITH: Cain says after the press conference he called his wife, who he has been married to for 43 years.


CAIN: She said, the things that that woman described - she said, that doesn't even sound like you, and I've known you for 45 years. My own wife said that I wouldn't do anything as silly as what that lady was talking about.

KEITH: Cain's campaign is now raising questions about Bialek and her attorney, Gloria Allred. In an email, the campaign pointed to Bialek's history of financial difficulties, and Allred's campaign contributions to Democrats, both of which are part of the public record.

Cain says all of the controversy has actually boosted his fundraising. And polls taken after the first allegations surfaced show support for Cain holding up.

Tamara Keith, NPR News.

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