Politics Straight, No Chaser
Republican presidential hopeful Cain accused of sexual harassment
Published: Monday, November 7, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 03:11
In the Republican Party primary race that has dominated the news since August, Herman Cain has managed to seize the spotlight these past few weeks. Emerging from a diverse field and a heavily divided party, Cain first grabbed headlines in a series of debates with a radical tax reform plan. Since then, he has made controversial comments about his views on illegal immigration prevention and, more recently, allegations have surfaced about potential sexual harassment cases made against him earlier in his career. These allegations were taken to new levels Monday as Sharon Bialek, a woman who claims to be one of Cain's victims, came forward publicly and gave a detailed and graphic account of his alleged inappropriate advances.
"Instead of going into the [National Restaurant Association] offices, he suddenly reached over and put his hand on my leg, up my skirt, and towards my genitals," Bialek said in a press conference. Cain then allegedly "grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch," she went on to say. She stated that as she objected to him coming on to her, Cain allegedly asked her, "You want a job, right?"
That last line quoting Cain, "You want a job, right?" may become the catch phrase of this scandal. If these allegations are true, it is the quintessential example of sexual harassment in the work place.
Bialek is the fourth woman to accuse Cain of sexual harassment. She was an employee at the National Restaurant Association while Cain was the organization's president. She lost her job in 1997 and appealed to Cain for help, which led to the pair meeting at a bar down the street from the association's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Bialek reported she was "coming forward to give a face and a voice to the women," referring to the other three women who've accused Cain of harassment but have not gone public.
The National Restaurant Association reached financial settlements, including salary compensation, with two of the women. It is unclear why the other three women haven't stepped forward publicly, but it's thought that it may be due to nondisclosure agreements signed in their out-of-court settlements.
The Cain campaign responded with a statement denying everything almost immediately. They claimed the "bogus attacks" were merely a ploy to take the focus off Cain's "bold" plans for our nation. They also stated that "Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone." This statement comes on the heels of several confusing comments of denial by Cain himself. When asked in a Fox News interview last week if he had ever settled a case of sexual harassment, Cain responded "Outside of the [National] Restaurant Association, absolutely not," which leaves the door open for interesting interpretations.
Bialek appeared alongside her notorious celebrity attorney, Gloria Allred on Monday. Allred is a feminist lawyer with a history of taking on controversial cases. She represented the family of Nicole Brown Simpson and women allegedly involved with Tiger Woods, among others. She said in a statement Monday that as Bialek sought Cain's help, he "instead decided to try to provide her with his idea of a stimulus package." Bialek made it known that she was a Republican, but that she couldn't let that stop her from coming out against Cain in this situation.
Despite the allegations over the past week, Cain continued to rise in the poll numbers. At the week's end, the Gallup Poll had reported that Cain and steadfast frontrunner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were tied with 21 percent of support. Cain's "9-9-9" plan for federal tax restructuring captured a conservative audience that has been slow to warm to Romney's moderate past. It is tough to predict how these new developments will affect Cain's support, considering his poll numbers have continued rising through the allegations for more than a week. Giving a face to the victim, especially considering the credibility of her attorney, will most certainly have a negative effect. The question now is how much of an effect this will have and whether it will evolve into an all-out political scandal.
The Republican Party is considering not only policy in this primary, but also the ability of a candidate to defeat President Barack Obama in the 2012 general election. To do this will require the support of suburban women, who can often be a swing demographic in elections. Without this support, it will be difficult for any candidate to defeat Obama next November. If the party thinks that Cain will be unelectable, their support may flee from him quickly.