Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain attempted to extort sexual favors from an unemployed woman desperate for work in exchange for helping her find a job, a Chicago area woman declared Monday.
Sharon Bialek, a single mother and a registered Republican, is the fourth woman to accuse Cain of harassment, but the first to go public. The well-coiffed platinum blonde said at a Manhattan news conference Monday that Cain, while president of the National Restaurant Association, grabbed her leg, reached for her genitals and shoved her face into his lap while they were in a car in Washington D.C. in 1997.
"What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend. This is not what I came here for," Bialek said she responded.
"You want a job, right?" she said he replied.
When Bialek insisted Cain return her to her hotel - where he had allegedly upgraded her to a lavish suite without her knowledge, she noted - he complied.
Bialek's attorney, Gloria Allred, said Bialek was not suing or seeking a cash settlement. Bialek said she was going public "to give a face and a voice to those women who cannot or do not wish to come forward."
The Cain campaign put out another denial Monday, saying "all allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false," and that Cain "has never harassed anyone."
Bialek had met Cain while she worked as manager of industry relations for the Educational Foundation, a division of his restaurant group, between 1996 to 1997, and was allegedly let go for not raising enough money - a charge she disputed. Bialek said her then boyfriend suggested she contact the former Godfather's Pizza CEO for assistance in finding a job.
Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Poll, said the latest charges - with a face and name - are "a major problem" for Cain "even if he chooses not to comment," as he has in the past. In total, the latest round of charges "make Cain a tougher sell to voters in November," said Miringoff.
The real test of how much damage Cain has sustained will be whether campaign contributions soar or sink, noted Christina Greer, assistant professor of political science at Fordham University. After the initial stories surfaced "his contributions doubled overnight," noted Greer. "But this," she added, "is different."
Bialek said she did not see Cain again after the alleged incident until she encountered him at a Tea Party Conference in Chicago a month ago. She asked if he remembered her.
Cain only acknowledged knowing her from her work at the Foundation, Bialek said, noting he "looked uncomfortable. . . . I kept wondering if he had done to other women what he had done to me and whether anyone was going to speak up about it. I had hoped that for his sake and his candidacy that mine was an isolated incident," she said.
What we know about the three other women accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment.
-- A Maryland woman who worked for the National Restaurant Association received a $45,000 payment from the trade group as part of aconfidential settlement in the 1990s. Cain acknowledged joking with the woman about her height, but shot down the harassment allegation.
-- Another woman, now a registered lobbyist in New Jersey, received a $35,000 settlement in the late 1990s from the restaurant association over alleged sexual harassment by Cain. He issued a denial.
-- A third woman who worked for the trade group considered filing a complaint against Cain but declined to after another woman - one of the two who settled - had already complained about his behavior, theAP reported.