Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Tuesday he doesn’t even recognize, much less recall, Sharon Bialek, the woman who is accusing him of sexual harassment.
“How can I defend [myself from] charges when I don’t remember this person by name? I don’t remember that she did work at the [National Restaurant Association] Education Foundation, and when I first saw her … I didn’t recognize her,” Cain said in an online video interview with Jon Karl of ABC News on Tuesday afternoon.
He added: “When I first saw this lady do the press conference with Gloria Allred, I sat there trying to recall who she was and if I knew her. And I’m honestly telling you, I can’t even recall knowing her back then,” he said.
Bialek held a news conference on Monday afternoon with celebrity attorney Gloria Allred in New York City and said Cain took her to dinner in 1997 and made inappropriate advances at her. She also claims she recently went to see him give a speech on the campaign trail and made a point to speak with him then.
Bialek has claimed that after she lost her job with the restaurant association’s charitable arm, she met with Cain to talk about other employment options. It was during this meeting, she said on Monday, that Cain attempted to force her head down on his crotch, explaining his behavior with the rhetorical question: “You want a job, right?”
In the interview with Karl, Cain said “sexual harassment is a very serious charge” but said “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 in all the different companies I have worked.”
“I can categorically say I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period,” he said.
His campaign is vigorously pushing back against Bialek, releasing a statement titled “Who is Sharon Bialek?” about her history of financial and employment problems.
“The fact is that Ms. Bialek has had a long and troubled history, from the courts to personal finances — which may help explain why she has come forward 14 years after an alleged incident with Mr. Cain, powered by celebrity attorney and long term Democrat donor Gloria Allred,” campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon said.
Bialek has said in interviews that she did not come forward for money, but rather because she thought voters should know about Cain’s behavior toward women.
Cain’s troubles began last week, when it was reported that two unnamed employees of the National Restaurant Association complained of inappropriate behavior from Cain in the 1990s.
“I’m not going to let these accusations — which are baseless, bogus and false — stop me,” Cain said Tuesday. “And I don’t believe the American people are going to allow these kinds of allegations to derail me in terms of my quest for the White House.”
Cain also admitted that his wife, Gloria, who has not been present on the campaign trail, is angry about the allegations. And while he said she won’t start joining him on the trail, she’s likely to do several media interviews.