Herman Cain issued his strongest denial yet of charges of sexual harassment during a 5 p.m. press conference in Phoenix, Arizona, saying that the harassment alleged by accuser Sharon Bialek "simply didn't happen, and calling Bialek "a troubled woman" put forward by "the Democrat machine" to attack him.
"I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period," said Cain. "The charges and the accusations I absolutely reject: They simply didn't happen. They simply did not happen."
Referring to himself in the third person more than once, Cain said he had chosen to address the accusations "directly rather than through a series of continuous statements or spokespeople because that's the person Herman Cain is." Cain appeared with lawyer L. Lin Wood, who has previously defended the reputations of Richard Jewell, falsely accused of the Atlanta Olympics bombing, Rep. Gary Condit, falsely accused of the murder of Chandra Levy, and John Ramsey, father of JonBenet Ramsey.
Cain said that the first time he had seen accuser Sharon Bialek was during her press conference with attorney Gloria Allred yesterday, and that he didn't remember either her or her name.
"As they got to the microphone, my first thought was, 'I don't even know who this woman is,' " said Cain. He said he could not remember Bialek from the National Restaurant Association, where he was president and CEO from 1996 to 1999, and "where she said she worked." The NRA has confirmed that Bialek worked for the trade group from 1996 to 1997.
Asked about Karen Kraushaar, an accuser whose name was made public Tuesday, Cain called her allegations baseless. "To the best of my recollection that is the one that I recall that filed a complaint, but it was found to be baseless." He said he doesn't remember any of her accusations, except for making a gesture that she was the same height as his wife.
Cain said there was a "machine" trying to keep a businessman out of the White House, and said Sharon Bialek was a "troubled woman" put forward by "the Democrat machine."
Cain said that the American people want a businessman to be president, and "a businessman by the name of Herman Cain has stepped forward. Here I am.
"As far as these accusations causing me to back off and maybe withdraw from this primary race, ain't gonna happen, because I am doing this for the American people and for the children and the grandchildren."
Two women filed sexual harassment complaints against Cain while he was president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association between 1996 and 1999 and received financial settlements. One of them was identified Tuesday as Karen Kraushaar, who know works as a spokesperson for the Treasury Department. Kraushaar told ABC News that she wants to do a press conference with the other accusers, though this is "not the way I wanted to get my 15 minutes of fame."
A third woman told the Associated Press that she had considered filing a sexual harassment claim against Cain, but decided not to because a coworker had already done so.
Bialek came forward at a press conference Monday with her lawyer, Gloria Allred, to say that Cain wanted her to trade sex for a job when she met with him in Washington 14 years ago in hopes that he would help her find work.
"I want you, Mr. Cain, to come clean," said Bialek. "Just admit what you did. Mr. Cain, I implore you to make this right so we can move forward."