Herman Cain said today that Sharon Bialek, the first woman to publicly accuse the GOP presidential candidate of sexual harassment, is a liar and that he can’t remember ever meeting her.
“Throughout my career, I have had nothing but the utmost respect for any and all women, as well as those that have worked under my leadership,” Cain told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl in the ABC News/Yahoo Newsmakers interview. “I can categorically say I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period. And as far as these latest charges… I reject all of those charges.”
After Cain’s interview with ABC News, one of the women who filed a complaint against Cain when he was head of the National Restaurant Association also came forward after several news media reported her name. Karen Kraushaar, a spokeswoman at the Treasury Department, stood by her claims in an interview with the New York Times, telling the newspaper that “When you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, you are extremely vulnerable.”
Cain said Bialek’s charges are “baseless” and “bogus” and are an attempt from his opponents to derail his candidacy.
“When I first saw her [Bialek]… I didn’t even recognize her,” Cain said. ”I am honestly telling you, I can’t even recall knowing her back then.”
When asked if Bialek was lying, Cain replied, “Yes, I’m saying that in as nice a way as I can.”
The former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, who has been accused by at least four women of sexual harassment, said that his wife is “angry” at these reports.
Bialek, a former employee at the National Restaurant Association, became the first woman on Monday to publicly charge Cain with sexual harassment. Bialek said Cain put his hand under her skirt, groped her genitals and pushed her head toward his crotch while giving her a ride back to her hotel in 1997.
Denying the allegations as “reprehensible,” Cain’s campaign is attacking what it calls Bialek’s “long and troubled [financial] history.” Bialek, a stay-at-home mother, filed for bankruptcy twice, once in 1991 and 2001.
Bialek told ABC News this morning that she was not paid to come forward, nor was she promised employment, but she did it because it was “the right thing to do.”
Other candidates interviewed today in the ABC News/Yahoo Newsmakers interviews mostly skirted the question about how Cain should respond to the allegations, except Mitt Romney, who said the latest charge by Bialek was “particularly disturbing,” and that the allegations should be addressed and “taken seriously.”
Former senator Rick Santorum called the accusation “very troubling.”
Cain agreed with Romney that the allegations are serious and disturbing, but he maintained they had no basis.
“It’s a distraction to this whole primary process. But I’m not initiating this,” he said.
When asked, in the interview’s lightning round segment who should be the fifth president to grace Mt. Rushmore, Cain said, “He hasn’t been president yet.”
Similarly, when asked who would play him in a movie, Cain replied, “He hasn’t been discovered yet.”