Cain accuser drops news conference plan for now


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Karen Kraushaar is the second woman to come forward, saying she had filed a sexual harassment claim against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.

CNN Wire Service

The attorney for a woman who accused presidential hopeful Herman Cain of sexual harassment in the late 1990s said Thursday his client is not prepared to hold a news conference about the allegations until all the other reported victims agree to join her.

Joel Bennett said his client, Karen Kraushaar, has tried to reach two other women who also claim they were sexually harassed by Cain during his 1996-99 stint as head of the National Restaurant Association.

Another accuser, Sharon Bialek, has agreed to attend a joint news conference with Kraushaar, but without the participation of all the alleged victims, Kraushaar doesn’t want to proceed, Bennett told reporters.

“Despite diligent efforts, she has not heard from these two women,” Bennett said, adding that Kraushaar “has decided not to hold a press conference unless and until the other women come forward and wish to participate.”

As first reported by CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, a friend of Kraushaar said earlier Thursday that Kraushaar would not proceed with a news conference if it only involves herself and Bialek — the only two publicly named accusers of Cain, who is among the front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination.

“We are still hopeful that they will have the courage to come forward, but we completely understand if they choose not to,” Kraushaar said in a statement released Wednesday. “Anyone should be able to report allegations of sexual harassment without fear that their lives and careers will be put on public display and laid open to public scrutiny.”

Bennett said Thursday that a joint news conference still could happen if the other two women agree to take part. Until then, he said, neither he nor Kraushaar will give any interviews.

The sexual misconduct allegations have dominated media coverage of the campaign since first reported October 30 by Politico. Cain denies any inappropriate behavior, and the controversy may be boosting his campaign so far, rather than harming it.

His campaign said Thursday that Cain has raised $9 million since the start of October, including more than $2 million since the sexual allegations story first surfaced 11 days ago. That compares to $2.8 million in the three-month period from June-October.

Wednesday night, Cain answered more questions about the allegations at a debate with other GOP contenders, a day after holding a news conference to address the latest allegation by Bialek that he sexually groped her in 1997.

“Why should the American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?” Cain was asked by one of the moderators, Maria Bartiromo of CNBC, in the early moments of the debate.

The crowd at Oakland University in suburban Detroit loudly booed the question, but Cain maintained a straight face and denied that he has acted inappropriately around any woman.

“The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion,” Cain answered. “I value my character and my integrity more than anything else. One person comes forward with a false accusation, and there are probably thousands who would say none of that activity came from Herman Cain.”

Though polling indicates that Republicans have some concerns about the scandal, Cain said Americans are “still very enthusiastic about my candidacy” and have responded with a flood of campaign donations.

Bennett told CNN Wednesday his client wants to speak about the alleged incidents because “she really feels she has to give the details to make it clear that her complaint was not baseless or a fabrication, as Mr. Cain has stated in his press conference.”

Also Wednesday, a witness corroborated part of Bialek’s story — that she encountered Cain last month at a tea party event in Chicago and the two spoke for a few minutes then.

Cain said Tuesday he had no memory of Bialek, the only accuser to publicly describe alleged misconduct by the former businessman, and he rejected the allegations as a politically motivated attempt to discredit his front-running campaign.

He described Bialek, a Chicago woman who once worked at the restaurant group, as a “troubled” woman put up to making false allegations by forces trying to derail his presidential bid.

Cain said the “Democrat machine” could be behind the allegations but added that he didn’t know for sure. He also said he expects further attempts to smear his name and reputation and vowed that he would not be deterred.

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

Cain had surged to the top of the polls with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in recent weeks, but now faces questions about his moral fiber as well as his campaign’s ability to deal with the controversy.

In an online essay Wednesday, Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation called for Cain to drop out of the race because of his failure to organize an effective campaign response to the accusations.

“If Cain cannot manage his own campaign, what is he going to do with the country?” Phillips asked in the essay. “It is time for him to leave the race.”

Kraushaar, one of the women cited in the Politico report, told CNN Tuesday that Cain is a “serial denier.”

She and another woman, who remains unidentified, received payouts upon leaving the restaurant association after complaining about alleged sexual harassment by Cain.

Bennett said Wednesday that Kraushaar, who has worked in communications for the federal government since her departure from the association, complained in 1999 of multiple incidents of alleged sexual harassment by Cain.

Bialek detailed Monday to reporters an alleged unwanted sexual advance by Cain shortly after she was laid off by the association’s education foundation in 1997. She said Cain reached up her dress and shoved her head toward his crotch.

Cain told her, “You want a job, right?” but stopped his advances when she protested, Bialek said.

Bialek said she didn’t file a complaint at the time because she was no longer working for the association. She denied wanting remuneration for telling her story, despite a bankruptcy stemming from costs related to her late mother’s medical bills.

In a Tuesday interview with ABC News, Cain responded “yes” when asked whether Bialek was lying about the alleged incident.

Saying he remembered neither Bialek nor the alleged incident, the 65-year-old Republican added, “I have absolutely not acted inappropriately with this woman or anyone else in my entire life.”

A Chicago radio host, Amy Jacobson, said Wednesday she saw Cain and Bialek talking together last month at a tea party event. The account by Jacobson, of AM 560 WIND radio, matched Bialek’s description of the encounter, raising questions about Cain’s insistence that he had no memory of meeting or knowing Bialek.

Regarding Kraushaar, Cain said the only complaint he could recall involved a comment he made that she was about the same height as his wife, as he held his hand up to his chin.

He said Kraushaar’s complaints were found to have been baseless at the time, and the restaurant association negotiated a severance agreement with her rather than a legal settlement regarding any sexual harassment charges.

However, Kraushaar told CNN that the height remark was not the basis for her complaint. And, Kraushaar added, she received a $46,000 sexual harassment settlement rather than a severance agreement.

Kraushaar also lodged a workplace complaint against her next employer — the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In the CNN interview Tuesday night, she called it a “minor incident” in which she complained she was not allowed to telecommute while recovering from a car accident, something a colleague was doing.

On Wednesday, Bennett said his client is not a serial filer of workplace complaints, but refused to provide any details of the case at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

CNN’s Tom Cohen and Greg Clary contributed to this report.