On a day when the accusers — and accusations — piled up against him, Herman Cain held a highly unorthodox news conference in which he defiantly denied all the charges, vowed to remain in the race for the Republican presidential nomination and hinted that Democrats may be behind the sexual harassment story that has dogged him for 10 days.
The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO went as far as to suggest that he would be willing to take a lie-detector test, explained his earlier failure to recall some of the incidents by saying he is “not an expert on how the brain works,” and pointedly noted that women also can sexually harass men.
“I have never acted inappropriately with anyone — period,” he said Tuesday, denying the allegations that one of his accusers, Sharon Bialek, graphically spelled out to the media Monday.
She became the first woman to make her charges public, saying Mr. Cain put his hand under her skirt and reached for her crotch.
On Tuesday, one of those three women, Karen Kraushaar, a Treasury Department employee who worked for Mr. Cain at the association and lodged a complaint against him, went public in the New York Times, floating the idea that all of his accusers should hold a joint news conference. Meanwhile, a fifth woman came forward by telling the Washington Examiner that Mr. Cain showed inappropriate behavior after delivering a speech in Egypt in 2002.
When the accusations first surfaced in a Politico report late last month, citing two unnamed accusers who said they had been harassed at the National Restaurant Association and had received payouts, Mr. Cain denied the incidents and said there had been no settlement.
Since then, the association acknowledged that it doled out payments that barred the women from speaking about their allegations and paid one of his accusers $35,000 and the other $45,000.
Mr. Cain now said he recalls Ms. Kraushaar’s accusations and the financial separation package she received from the National Restaurant Association, but he said the association investigated the complaint she lodged against him and found it “baseless.”
The political saga reached a crescendo this week, beginning with Ms. Bialek’s news conference Monday, when she walked into New York’s Friars Club alongside her celebrity feminist attorney, Gloria Allred.
Ms. Bialek said that after the restaurant association fired her, she sought out Mr. Cain for job advice. After dinner and drinks in Washington, Mr. Cain parked the car near the group’s offices, slid his hand under her skirt, “reached for my genitals” and “grabbed my head and brought it toward his crotch.”
Mr. Cain’s camp immediately called the charge “bogus.” Hours later, the candidate appeared unfazed by the accusation during an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
“At least it wasn’t one of the many that have the first name ‘Anonymous,’ so now this one actually had a name and a face,” he told Mr. Kimmel.