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."
Bialek; Cain Wanted to Trade Sex for Job
Cain has issued multiple blanket denials of sexual harassment. During an interview with Jonathan Karl of ABC News earlier Tuesday, Cain issued another all inclusive denial. "I can categorically say, I have never acted inappropriately with anyone period. As far as these latest charges, I don't even remember… I reject all of those charges."
Cain said he didn't remember Sharon Bialek by name or recognize her after she came forward Monday.
Cain's communication director J.D. Gordon said in a statement late Monday that Cain's opponents were behind Bialek's public accusations, noting her representation by high-profile attorney and Democratic supporter Gloria Allred.
"After attacking Herman Cain through anonymous accusers for a week, his opponents have now convinced a woman with a long history of severe financial difficulties, including personal bankruptcy, to falsely accuse the Republican frontrunner of events allegedly occurring well over a decade ago for which there is no record, nor even a complaint filed," the statement said. "It is noteworthy that Gloria Allred is a celebrity lawyer who specializes in generating publicity for herself and her clients."
The Cain campaign also issued a statement that pointed to Bialek's history of financial troubles. She has declared bankruptcy twice and lost several court judgments for debts in excess of $10,000. Bialek told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News on Tuesday that she had not come forward to accuse Cain in order to profit. The NRA said Bialek worked for its education foundation from December 1996 to June 1997. Bialek said she was let go because the NRA didn't feel the foundation had raised enough money.
Bialek said she contacted Cain, whom she'd met at an NRA function in Chicago, in the hopes that he would help her get a new job. While visiting relatives of her then-boyfriend, a pediatrician, in New Jersey in 1997, she took a train to Washington to meet with Cain.
According to Bialek, after drinks and dinner, Cain, the president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, stuck his hand up her skirt and tried to pull her head toward his crotch.
"I said, 'What are you doing?'" alleged Bialek, who said she had contacted Cain for help getting a job. "You know I have a boyfriend. This isn't what I came here for."
According to Bialek, Cain answered, "You want a job, right?"
Bialek said that Cain stopped when she asked him to stop and then drove her back to her hotel. She told her then-boyfriend that Cain had been "sexually inappropriate," but did not go into specifics because she was embarrassed. Both the boyfriend and another male friend provided Allred with signed statements confirming that Bialek had told them about an incident with Cain at the time.
Bialek said she did not see Cain again until earlier this year at a Tea Party event in Chicago where he spoke. She said that at the event, "I kept wondering to myself, has he done to other woman, women, what he had done to me. And whether anyone was going to speak up about it. I really hoped for his sake, that -- and his candidacy, that mine was not -- that mine was an isolated incident."
She claimed that she confronted Cain at the event, and asked him, "Do you remember me?" and that he had confirmed that the remembered her and "kind of looked uncomfortable."