Influential conservatives are treading lightly around the latest allegations of sexual harassment lodged against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, but admit they are still skeptical because accuser Sharon Bialek chose to retain celebrity lawyer and liberal activist Gloria Allred as her attorney.
But they certainly aren’t ignoring the allegations altogether. Many of these conservatives say Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, must be more forthcoming in his denial of the accusations.
“We know nothing about this woman except that 12 years ago something happened that she did not feel compelled to tell anybody about,” Erick Erickson, the influential editor of the website RedState, told TheDC. “But 12 years later, when Herman Cain decided run for president, she decided to go on TV and tell the world. Maybe there is something there, but if this is it, it just seems opportunistic. My general rule of thumb is that when Gloria Allred crawls out from under her rock, the 15 minutes of fame for the story is up.”
During a New York City press conference with Allred on Monday, Bialek, a former National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation employee, accused Cain on Monday of groping her in 1997. Allred, a 2008 Obama voter, was at her side. Bialek 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?”
Cain’s campaign on Monday immediately denied the accusation, saying: “All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone.”
Penny Nance, who leads the group Concerned Women For America, said Monday that seeing Allred, known for taking high-profile cases against celebrities, “insert herself into another national scandal … was disturbing.” But “listening to Sharon Bialek’s story of how she was dealt with by Herman Cain,” she added, “was even more shocking.”
“I have to reiterate, that in my dealings with Mr. Cain, he has always been a gentleman,” Nance said. “However, hearing that there is a growing number of women who have accused Mr. Cain of inappropriate behavior gives me pause. This woman is now the face of an issue that continues to grow and be a distraction for Mr. Cain’s campaign. Mr. Cain needs to address these new allegations head on.”
“Unlike anonymous allegations, Ms. Bialek appeared credible and I was very disturbed by her characterization of what happened,” Nance added. “Whoever Republican primary voters choose as president should be a man or woman of good moral character. We said when Bill Clinton was president that character counts, and we still believe that.”
Judson Phillips, the leader of the Tennessee-based group Tea Party Nation, said he too is “skeptical” of the new allegations. “If she wanted credibility, I think she could have just come out with her story without a well-known liberal activist,” he told TheDC.
On his show Monday, radio host Rush Limbaugh did not defend Cain. But he also said he did not take the news conference with Allred very seriously, recalling that Allred herself once joked that she liked being groped by the TSA.
Limbaugh also joked that Allred had essentially scooped Politico as the first to get the story about the new allegation.
“Imagine if you’re Politico for just a second here,” he said. “In 7 days you had 138 stories — not once could you tell anybody what Herman Cain allegedly did. Now stick with me on this. You are the Politico, you break the story, you have 138 Herman Cain stories [and] in none of them can you tell who the women are or what [Cain] did. Gloria Allred [is able to] in one press conference with graphic details. Gloria Allred has scooped the Politico and all their 138 stories.”
Conservative writer Ann Coulter, one of Cain’s biggest defenders in recent weeks, also took aim at Politico on Monday, which last week published the story that two women — whom they did not name — accused Cain in the 1990s of inappropriate sexual behavior.
“Well, NOW there’s finally a story, unlike what Politico published,” Coulter said in an email to TheDC after Bialek made her allegations. “Why no questions though? Will any reporter be allowed to interview her? How can we access her credibility? Why did all this alleged sexual harassment happen only during the 3 or 4 year period that Cain was working for the National [Restaurant] Association — but not during his decades in private practice? That seems highly unlikely.”
Coulter also explained her skepticism in light of Bialek’s connection to the place where President Obama and his closest advisers are from.
“And since she’s from Chicago, does she know also Richard Daley and/or David Axelrod, like Sheila O’Grady, the head of the Illinois [Restaurant Association], who is already a suspect in digging up the anonymous accusations against Cain from last week?” Coulter pondered.
Michigan-based conservative columnist Robert Laurie wrote an opinion piece for TheDC defending Cain explaining that since Allred is involved, the charges are automatically suspect.
“The case suits her M.O. perfectly,” Laurie wrote. “There’s a female accuser levying a nebulous, antiquated charge against a male who holds A) wealth, B) power and C) media attention. No charge was levied when the supposed event took place, which is great news, since it makes it that much easier for the attorney to cook up a vague, yet damaging, complaint.”
Laurie advised Cain to stand and fight the allegations. So far, however, Cain has only sent out a press-release denial.