Herman Cain addresses the media at a news conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., that focused on Sharon Bialek’s sexual harassment accusations against him. (Darryl Webb, Associated Press / November 8, 2011)

By Robin Abcarian, Michael Finnegan and Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times
November 8, 2011, 10:08 p.m.

Reporting from Scottsdale, Ariz., Los Angeles and— The more forcefully Herman Cain fights to save his presidential campaign, the more events spiral out of the candidate’s control.

After days in which he refused to discuss sexual harassment accusations against him, Cain reversed himself and starred in a nationally televised news conference at which he cast one of his accusers as “a troubled woman” and said he had “never acted inappropriately with anyone, period.”

But as he was preparing to speak, one woman who had leveled such charges anonymously against Cain came forward publicly. Later her lawyer said that a news conference would soon be held by the woman, a U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman named Karen Kraushaar, and an Illinois woman, Sharon Bialek, who on Monday accused Cain of groping her 14 years ago.

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The explosive controversy seemed unlikely to ease soon, as even Cain predicted that opponents would summon more complainants in coming days.

At the news conference in Scottsdale, where he was raising money for his presidential campaign, Cain firmly denied all allegations about his behavior.

“The charges and the accusations, I absolutely reject,” Cain said. “They simply didn’t happen. They simply did not happen.”

Cain said he would be willing to take a lie detector test to clear his name. But in a sign of the damage already inflicted on his bid for the Republican nomination, Cain raised the possibility of abandoning the race — if only to shoot down the idea himself.

“As far as these accusations causing me to back off, and maybe withdraw from this presidential primary race — ain’t going to happen,” he said.

The emergence of Kraushaar stopped any momentum Cain might have sought from his Tuesday appearance. As an employee of the National Restaurant Assn. in the late 1990s, she complained of sexual harassment by Cain when he was the group’s president and chief executive.

Kraushaar received a cash payment from the group in 1999 after signing an agreement that barred her from discussing the complaint that she filed against Cain. In recent days the restaurant organization allowed her attorney to release a statement confirming her complaint, but she did not come forward publicly until her name was circulated Tuesday by news organizations. CNN quoted Kraushaar as telling the woman who hired her from the association that Cain was a “monster.”

Her attorney, Joel P. Bennett, said Kraushaar and Bialek and their attorneys would soon meet publicly.

“My client has decided to hold a joint news conference with as many of the women who complained of sexual harassment by Herman Cain as will participate,” he said, adding that Bialek would be present. Two other women anonymously complained about Cain, and one of them also received a settlement from the restaurant group.

In Scottsdale, Cain called Kraushaar’s allegations “baseless.”

But his main focus was Bialek, who appeared alongside attorney Gloria Allred in New York to assert that Cain had put his hand up her skirt and tried to push her face into his crotch. The incident, she said, took place after they drove from a dinner at which she had sought employment advice. At the time — the same period in which the other complaints were made — she had just been laid off from a restaurant association affiliate.

Cain said he could not remember ever meeting Bialek, much less taking her to dinner in Washington and making sexual advances toward her.

“The fact is these anonymous allegations are false, and now the Democratic machine in America has brought forth this troubled woman to make false accusations, statements, many of which exceed common sense,” Cain said.

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