The Herman Cain Sexual Harassment odessy is starting to look a little like the recent Tiger Woods debacle. Every other day it seems a new accuser comes for to rattle the news media, and with each day, America loses focus on the real issues at hand. The question bears asking, with all these skeletons in his closet, did Herman Cain actually think he had a viable chance at becoming out nation’s president, or was all this just a ploy to sell his books?
Did “activist celebrity lawyer” Gloria Allred just do Herman Cain a favor?
Finally, six days after a somewhat nebulous sexual harassment story broke, a person has actually come forward, identified herself, and lodged a specific accusation of inappropriate behavior against Herman Cain. Actually, what Sharon Bialek accused him of might actually be defined as sexual assault.
In a statement she read herself at a New York press conference, Bialek recalled meeting Cain at a convention back in the summer of 1997, when he was running the National Restaurant Association and she was working as a fund-raiser for the organization’s educational foundation. A month later,when she was laid off from her job, she said she reached out to Cain, hoping he might help in her employment search. She traveled to Washington to meet him and booked her own hotel room for the trip, discovering when she arrived at the Capital Hilton that she’d been moved to a lavish suite. When she met Cain for dinner, he explained why: “I upgraded you.” Later that night, she claimed, he offered to show her the NRA’s headquarters, at which point he “suddenly reached over and put his hand on my leg, under my skirt and reached for my genitals” and then tried to pull her head toward his crotch. When she objected, he replied: “You want the job, right?”
If her story is true, this would seem to implicate Cain in an act of sexual assault. But it may be too late to prosecute. Apparently, the statute of limitations for first and second degree sexual assault in the District of Columbia is 15 years, but for third and fourth degree cases (which this likely would be) it’s only ten years. The alleged incident occurred more than 14 years ago, in 1997. Bialek did not report the incident to authorities at the time and gave no indication that she’s interested in pressing charges now.
The million dollar question is whether this will finally prompt Republicans to turn on Cain. He demonstrated remarkable staying power last week, with influential Republican voices framing the entire scandal as a creation of liberals and their media allies. At the end of the week, Cain was still at the top of GOP national polls, and new numbers released today suggested Republicans still weren’t bothered by the saga. But now we have a specific, graphic accusation — one that can’t be dismissed as a case of misconstrued words. And Bialek went out of her way to stress her own conservative credentials, noting that she’d been a guest at a Tea Party event in Chicago last month and praising Cain’s “inspirational” speaking style.
On the other hand, her lawyer is Gloria Allred — or, as the Cain campaign identified her in a statement released during the press conference, “activist celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred.” Simply put, Allred is exactly the sort of character that the Republican base loves to hate. So if Republican voters — and, more specifically, Republican opinion-shapers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity — decide to focus on Allred’s role instead of Bialek’s, Cain just might continue defying gravity.
BY STEVE KORNACKI/Salon.com
Sharon Bialek-Herman Cain presser interrupted by Benjy Bronk
Moments before a press conference was to start in which a fourth woman would accuse the Republican presidential candidate of sexual harassment, Benjy Bronk, a writer for Howard Stern, seemed to scare Sharon Bialek and her attorney Gloria Allred from the conference room with his over-the-top antics.
Benjy Bronk jostling with members of the media at the Gloria Allred news conference. (Screengrab from LiveFeed)
It was not the first time Bronk disrupted a political press conference. In June, Bronk started a ruckus at Rep. Anthony Weiner’s press conference, interrupting other reporters and heckling the congressman. “Will you maintain your hot physique and smooth sexy chest?” he asked.
On Monday, Bronk took the podium before Allred and Bialek appeared, fielding a barrage of questions and rambling on about his own life. When the two women appeared at the door, Bronk announced in a voice reminiscent of a host for the W.W.E. “Herrrrre’s Gloria Allred and the accuser!”
From the conversation on the live feed, it seems that Allred turned around and left the room immediately.
Journalists in the room started swearing at Bronk, as he asked to take a vote on whether or not he could stay. He left, but it took some minutes before Allred returned, with the press asking in bewildered voices, “Did someone tell her he was gone?”
After Bronk interrupted the Weiner press conference in June, he told the New York Times he had two goals: get the truth — and get on television. He later told MSNBC he felt embarrassed by his actions and he should not have interrupted Weiner. He also said was worried by the reaction he caused in other people. One man threatened him with physical harm after Weiner’s news conference.
Bronk seems to have learned one lesson: he let the women have the limelight once they entered the room. Bialek spoke uninterrupted as she told her story, saying Herman Cain had accosted her in what Allred described as Cain’s version of a “stimulus package.”
By Melissa Bell / Washington Post | 02:36 PM ET, 11/07/2011