Herman Cain on Tuesday flatly denied the sexual harassment allegations against him and said he would “absolutely” be willing to take a lie detector test.
But the controversy seemed to deepen for Cain as Karen Kraushaar, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, came forward to confirm she had filed sexual harassment charges against the presidential candidate while they both worked for the National Restaurant Association.
Cain’s campaign has launched a blistering counterattack, releasing a memo on Tuesday questioning Bialek’s credibility and having the candidate hold an hour-long press conference, accompanied by his lawyer, to address the issue.
“The charges and the accusations, I absolutely reject,” Cain said. “They simply didn’t happen. They simply did not happen.”
His campaign’s strong response suggests it believes attacking the accusers is the best way to weather the allegations. And while Cain appeared to avoid serious damage to his campaign last week, Bialek’s emergence seems to be damaging his candidacy.
A Reuters poll released Tuesday said that 40 percent of Republicans view Cain less favorably after watching Bialek’s press conference, while 39 percent believe the assertions to be true.
A Gallup poll also released Tuesday found that Cain’s “positive intensity score” — a measure of Republican voters’ feelings about a candidate — fell to 25 percent from a peak of 34 percent in early October. Gallup says that number is continuing to fall, with his score ranking around 20 percent since the scandal broke.
Cain acknowledged as much while speaking to the press Tuesday, saying that it was “natural that some voters would be turned off by the mere mention of the accusations.”
But he emphasized he would stay in the presidential race.
“I am not going to be discouraged to the point that I am going to pull out of this race,” Cain told ABC News and Yahoo earlier in the day.
In his press conference on Tuesday, Cain acknowledged that Kraushaar brought the charges, but repeated his denial of improper behavior and said her allegations had been dismissed as “baseless.”
Cain also said he struggled to recall having ever met Bialek.
“I tried to remember if I recognized her, and I didn’t. I tried to remember if I remembered that name, and I didn’t,” Cain said.
Still, Cain acknowledged that there was a “remote possibility” that he simply could not remember meeting with Bialek.
“I’m not an expert on how the brain works,” Cain said. “I didn’t recognize the face, the name, nor the voice.”
He blamed the “Democrat machine” for Bialek’s allegations.
“The Democrat machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman to make accusations, many of which exceed common sense,” Cain said. “And they certainly exceed the standards of decency in America.”
Bialek’s credibility appears to have been bolstered somewhat by the decision of Kraushaar to come forward; Kraushaar’s attorney said Monday that the details of her case and what Bialek described were similar. She is the woman the restaurant association freed on Friday from the confidentiality agreement.
“When you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, you are extremely vulnerable,” Kraushaar told The New York Times. “You do whatever you can to quickly get yourself into a job someplace safe, and that is what I thought I had achieved when I left.”
Kraushaar’s name became widely known just before Cain’s press conference on Tuesday. But earlier in the day, his campaign challenged Bialek’s credibility in a memo distributed to reporters detailing what it characterized as Bialek’s “long and troubled” history, including a 1999 paternity dispute, to argue that the public should trust Cain over his latest accuser.
“In stark contrast to Mr. Cain’s four decades spent climbing the corporate ladder rising to the level of CEO at multiple successful business enterprises, Ms. Bialek has taken a far different path,” the campaign said.
“The fact is that Ms. Bialek has had a long and troubled history, from the courts to personal finances — which may help explain why she has come forward 14 years after an alleged incident with Mr. Cain, powered by celebrity attorney and long-term Democrat donor Gloria Allred.”
Bialek has strongly denied financial or political motivation for coming forward, noting that she is a registered Republican and that she opted not to sell her story.
“I could’ve sold my story, but I didn’t,” Bialek said on CNN. “My whole objective is to tell the truth.”
Bialek also defended enlisting Allred, a high-profile attorney who has been involved in many celebrity sex scandals and is a prominent Democratic donor. Allred said her pro-bono services were not politically motivated.
“I criticized Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner in New York with another client and said he should resign and he did ... I criticized President Clinton ... so, it doesn’t matter to me the party of the man,” Allred said on CNN. “All of that is a deflection by him because he doesn’t want to deal with the sexual harassment issue.”
But Bialek did not completely rule out ever profiting from her story. Asked if she would ever do interviews for money or try to get a book deal, she equivocated.
“This isn’t why I came forward,” she said on Fox News. “I’d have to think about that. That’s so far off the radar right now.”
Cain’s fellow presidential candidates — reticent last week to comment on the brewing scandal — have also stepped up their criticism of the candidate.
“These are serious allegations, and they’re going to have to be addressed seriously,” said Mitt Romney in an interview with ABC News and Yahoo. Romney went on to say that Bialek’s accusations were “particularly disturbing, and they’re serious.”
Newt Gingrich, who now places third in most Republican national polls, said that Cain “has to have an answer, and it better be accurate.”
“He has to explain the charges and do so in a way that’s convincing,” Gingrich said. “He owes her that, and he owes the American people that.”
— Originally posted at 6:40 p.m. and updated at 8:26 p.m.