, NEW YORK, Nov 7 – A woman on Monday broke her silence to accuse Republican presidential contender Herman Cain of sexually groping her in a car, when she asked him for help in finding a new job in 1997.
Sharon Bialek became the first woman to go public with detailed allegations, amid swirling accusations by four different women of sexual harassment by Cain, vying to be crowned the Republican Party’s nominee for the 2012 elections.
She also became the first to offer graphic details of what has been referred to as “inappropriate behavior” by Cain, a former pizza company executive now at the top of the opinion polls in the Republican White House race.
Bialek said she had appealed to Cain for help after she was let go from her job with the educational department of the National Restaurant Association, of which he was then president. The two were driving in a car in Washington, when Cain pulled over.
“He suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch,” Bialek told a packed press conference in a private club in New York.
“I was very, very surprised and very shocked. I said, ‘What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend. This isn’t what I came here for.’ Mr Cain said, ‘You want a job, right? ‘”
But Cain’s campaign swiftly hit out at the dramatic accusations, saying in a statement carried by US media that “all allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone.”
“Just as the country finally begins to refocus on our crippling $15 trillion national debt and the unacceptably high unemployment rate, now activist celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred is bringing forth more false accusations against the character of Republican front-runner Herman Cain,” the statement said.
It added that the “American people will not allow Mr Cain’s bold ‘9-9-9 plan,’ clear foreign policy vision and plans for energy independence to be overshadowed by these bogus attacks.”
Bialek has engaged the help of Allred, who said in a statement that she was “not one of the three women who have previously been reported to have alleged sexual harassment by Cain.”
Cain has surged from outsider status to the top of the polls of Republican candidates, vying to be the party’s first African American nominee and take on Democratic Party incumbent President Barack Obama in the November 2012 vote.
That would potentially set up the first all-black presidential race in US history.
A favorite with the right-wing Tea Party faction, Cain is seen by supporters as having greater charisma than the man many expect will ultimately take the nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Cain, who has never before held elected office, has tried so far to survive the sexual harassment allegations by stonewalling.
Allred said she also had two statements on oath from Bialek’s then boyfriend, as well as a longstanding friend, that she had told them both about Cain’s alleged behavior shortly after the event.
“Instead of receiving the help she had hoped for, Mr Cain instead decided to provide her with his idea of a stimulus package,” Allred told the press conference.
“If all of these allegations by all of the women who have been reported to have made them are true, then I, for one, am disgusted at Mr Cain’s serial sexual harassment of women,” she added.
If true, “Mr Cain, while running for president, is actively lying to Americans, showing disdain for our common sense and intellect and showing that he could care less about the impact of his behavior on the dignity of these women,” she added.