Cain To Defend Against Harassment Allegations

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain responded to accusations of sexual harassment at a news conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., Tuesday. Cain say he has "never acted inappropriately with anyone."

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain says he will not be deterred by allegations of sexual harassment.

HERMAN CAIN: And as far as these accusations causing me to back off and maybe withdraw from this presidential primary race - ain't going to happen.

INSKEEP: That was Cain at a news conference yesterday in Scottsdale, Arizona. NPR's Ted Robbins was there and has this report on the latest accusations against Cain as well as his denials.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: The first person to step to the microphone was not Herman Cain. It was Lin Wood, one of the country's most prominent libel lawyers.

LIN WOOD: I have also had the privilege to represent a number of innocent victims accused by the media of serious crimes - false accusations.

ROBBINS: Wood represented the parents of 6-year-old murder victim Jon Benet Ramsey as well as Richard Jewell, the man cleared of the Atlanta Olympics bombing. The message: Herman Cain intends to vigorously fight back against harassment allegations. Cain stood in front of four American flags in a hotel meeting room and denied the allegations several times, using the same statement.

CAIN: I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period.

ROBBINS: The news conference capped a day which began with Sharon Bialek making the rounds on network TV. On CBS, she explained why she came forward to say that Cain groped her in a car as she sought his help finding a job.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION INTERVIEW)

SHARON BIALEK: I don't despise the man. I actually did it because I wanted to help him. I wanted to give him a platform to come clean, to tell the truth.

ROBBINS: Cain came forward, all right. He said he couldn't even remember meeting Bialek. He called her a troubled woman, and pointed to financial problems she's had as a possible reason for her accusation.

CAIN: From a commonsense standpoint, one would have to ask if, in fact, that might not have been a motivation for her being subjected to this.

ROBBINS: Cain said he thought Bialek was being used by the Democratic Party to get him out of the race, though he said he had no evidence. He said what he called the machine was trying to keep a businessman out of the White House. Cain is the former head of Godfather's Pizza and of the National Restaurant Association.

But one of Cain's Republican opponents, Mitt Romney, also weighed in.

FORMER GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: A number of women have come forward with concerns. This woman's charges are particularly disturbing and they're serious.

ROBBINS: One of the other women, who was anonymous, came forward publicly yesterday. She is Karen Kraushaar, who worked at the National Restaurant Association when Cain was there. She has since worked as a spokesperson for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Now, she works for the Inspector General's office at the U.S. Treasury Department.

When Kraushaar left the Restaurant Association in 1999, she received money to settle her harassment claim against Cain. Yesterday, Herman Cain said he remembered one incident in his office in which he compared Kraushaar's height with his wife's.

CAIN: The door was open. My secretary was sitting there. It wasn't anything behind closed doors. I gestured because of her height, comparing it to my wife's height. End of story.

ROBBINS: Late yesterday, Karen Krausehaar said she wanted Herman Cain's other accusers to join her and hold their own news conference.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Scottsdale.

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