Just hours after saying he would not play by the media’s rules when it comes to sexual harassment allegations, Herman Cain told late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel that he will have a news conference Tuesday to “set the record straight.”
The Republican presidential candidate, who still flatly denies all claims that he behaved inappropriately with women, told Kimmel Monday night: “When I made the statement that I'm done talking about this, I was talking about the firestorm last week. I wasn't talking about this new firestorm that we discovered today."
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Cain, whose news conference in Phoenix, Ariz., will take place at 5 p.m. Eastern time today, declared: “There’s not an ounce of truth in all of these accusations.”
The latest drama for the Cain campaign came when 50-year-old single mother Sharon Bialek went public on Monday to say that Cain put his hand up her skirt and pushed her head toward his lap as they sat in a car in Washington, D.C., 15 years ago.
She had been fired from her job with the National Restaurant Association’s educational foundation and had approached Cain, who then was the association’s CEO, to ask him for help finding another job, she claimed.
She told reporters in New York that she protested and asked Cain what he was doing, as he knew she had a boyfriend. She said he replied: “You want a job, right?” But he stopped and immediately drove her back to her hotel.
Cain, a 65-year-old father of two, told Kimmel he had had “a rough start” to his day. He said he watched Bialek’s press conference while in San Francisco and immediately called his wife, Gloria, who has remained at home in Atlanta, far from the campaign trail.
“I had a few of my staff members there with me, and I'm sitting here and they're watching me and they could see the steam coming out of my ears,” he said. “And the feelings that you have when you know that all of this is totally fabricated and you go from anger then you get disgusted, you try to control yourself to make sure you watch this thing all the way through it.”
He insisted, “There is not an ounce of truth in all these accusations.” Now that Bialek has gone public, he said he knows “who it was and what it was” that he has to deal with.
On Tuesday, Bialek appeared on CNN’s “American Morning,” where she said she is struggling financially and could have sold her story to make a quick buck but decided against it. “My whole objective is to tell the truth and also help other people out there who have been in similar situations.
“Initially, I went into this hoping every hope of hopes that Herman would just step forward. That was my primary goal — just admit it. Step forward, admit it, and move forward,” she said.
After Bialek’s announcement on Monday, another woman, Donna Donella, told the Washington Examiner that Cain appeared close to crossing the line with a businesswoman who questioned him during a United States Agency for International Development speech he gave in Egypt in 2002.
Donella, who worked for the agency at the time, said Cain approached her and a colleague after the speech and said, “Could you put me in touch with that lovely young lady who asked the question, so I can give her a more thorough answer over dinner?"
She said she was “suspicious” of Cain’s behavior and eventually a group went out to eat, and Cain did nothing inappropriate during the meal — although he ordered two $400 bottles of wine, leaving the Egyptian woman with the bill.
“I couldn't swear that he had some untoward intentions, but we all thought his tone was suspect and we didn't feel comfortable putting him in touch with that woman," Donella told the Examiner.
Cain sent out an email to supporters shortly before his appearance with Kimmel, in which he attacked the media’s handling of the harassment accusations. “I have touched on this before — the emphasis on "gaffes," gotcha questions, and time devoted to trivial nonsense — and everyone knows the process only became further detached from relevance this week as the media published anonymous, ancient, vague personal allegations against me,” he wrote.
“Once this kind of nonsense starts, the media's rules say you have to act in a certain way. I am well aware of these rules. And I refuse to play by them.”
He said most people agreed with him that he should not be drawn into the controversy that is swirling. “If the media want to continue talking about nonsense, that's fine. I'm not going to join them. It doesn't look like the citizenry plans to join them either.”
But as soon as he was on television he changed his tack, telling Kimmel he now planned to tackle the accusations head on. “I will talk about any and all future firestorms because here's one thing people know about Herman Cain: I'm in it to win it and I'm not going to be discouraged.”
Cain has been dogged with accusations of improper behavior towards women for more than a week now. The brouhaha started when the website Politico reported on Oct. 30 that two female employees of the restaurant association, who still remain unidentified, were paid to quit their jobs after laying formal complaints of harassment in the late 1990s.
Since then another unidentified ex-employee told The Associated Press that he invited her up to his corporate apartment and conservative radio host Steve Deace said he made “awkward, inappropriate” comments to two female members of his staff when he went to this studio in Des Moines, Iowa, for an interview.
Cain has been criticized harshly for his handling of the accusations. Even though Politico told his campaign they were planning to run a story 10 days before they actually did, his campaign reacted slowly.
He initially denied knowing about paying off any staff members because of complaints, then admitted he remembered one of them. He also insisted before Bialek went public that there could not be any further embarrassing disclosures. All along he has said virtually nothing about the accusations as he has desperately tried to refocus media coverage on his 9-9-9 tax plan.
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