GOP presidential contender Herman Cain held a press conference in Phoenix today to address allegations by Sharon Bialek, Karen Kraushaar and others that he either sexually harassed or made unwanted advances on them during his tenure at the National Restaurant Association. Kraushaar, a longtime government employee through several administrations of both parties, apparently is also considering holding a press conference alongside other accusers at some point to confront Cain.
The press conference in Scottsdale, AZ opened with Cain’s attorney, Lin Wood, who decried Cain being tried in the “court of public opinion,” and noted that Cain has had no opportunity to cross-examine his accusers.
Cain took the podium, strongly denied the allegations against him, and declared “I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period.” Cain added that as he watched Ms. Bialek’s press conference, he did not even remember meeting her. “The charges and the accusations, I absolutely reject. They simply didn’t happen. They simply didn’t happen,” Cain said.
Cain said that he will not drop out of the race for the GOP nomination. He accused the “Democrat machine” of manufacturing the accusations against him, a sharp contrast with Cain and his campaign’s attempts to blame the Perry campaign and its adviser, Curt Anderson, after the allegations surfaced last week. He did not apologize to Mr. Anderson, and no press brought Anderson’s name up in their questions. Cain said he “will not allow false accusations” to call his character or integrity into question. Cain also said that sexual harassment is a very serious charge, and he has not tried to minimize sexual harassment in the workplace.
During Q&A with the press, Cain said that he has seen and dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace. He defended his early statement that the NRA had reached an “agreement” as opposed to a “settlement” with Kraushaar. When asked by a reporter to name the “Democratic machine” responsible for bringing up the allegations, Cain said that he would not “point fingers.” Cain said that “that lady” made allegations that were found to be baseless and that she could not find anyone to corroborate her story. He said he would submit to a lie detector on the facts. “Yes. I absolutely would [take a lie detector test]. But I’m not going to do that unless I have a good reason to do that. Of course I would be willing to do a lie detector test.” To a question regarding why the allegations are coming out now, Cain responded that “The machine to keep a businessman out of the White House is relentless.” Cain also said, repeatedly, that he did not recognize the face, name or voice of Sharon Bialek either during her initial press conference or during her appearance on the Fox News Channel today. Bialek and Chicago radio host Amy Jacobson say he did see and recognize her at a Chicago Tea Party event a month ago. When asked to describe Kaushaar’s accusation against him, Cain described the incident he has previously described it, in which he was in his office with her with the door open and raised his hand to his chin and noted that Kraushaar is “the same height as my wife, because my wife comes up to my chin.”
Cain closed the press conference saying that he will continue to focus on the issues and the “crisis of leadership” in the White House, adding that the nation has larger and more important issues to address. Cain spoke for just under 30 minutes.
More: Jim Geraghty notes the questions that went unasked at Cain’s press conference.
Update: Here is video of Cain’s remarks, from CBS News. The clip does not include his exchanges with the press.
Update: The Hilton says that due to its privacy policies, it will not release any information regarding Bialek’s “upgrade” claim.