"Oh," exclaimed South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly when told details from Bialek's news conference. He said character issues matter in a state where the last governor tearfully confessed an affair and the current governor faced unproven allegations from two men that she had affairs. "Our voters care about moral attitude," Connelly said. "Character does matter."
Still, Cain backers remained solidly behind the former pizza company executive. They pointed to the presence of Gloria Allred — a high-profile attorney with Democratic ties — alongside Bialek at Monday's news conference in New York as proof that the latest claim was a partisan smear.
"The fact that she's involved removes all credibility," Georgia Christian Coalition president Jerry Luquire said. "If he says he didn't do anything then I believe him."
Bialek said Tuesday she had no financial motivation to come forward, wasn't offered a job and wasn't being asked by Allred to pay a legal fee.
"I'm just doing this because it's the right thing to do," she said in one interview. Bialek said she waited so long to come forward because "I was embarrassed ... and I just kind of wanted it to go away."
Asked about Cain's characterization of her charges as a "total fabrication," Bialek stood her ground. "I wanted to give him a platform to come clean, to tell the truth," she said. "I was trying to be nice about it and it just didn't work."
Bialek is the fourth woman to say that Cain engaged in inappropriate behavior during his time at the helm of the restaurant group.
At least two women who worked there at the time filed sexual harassment complaints.
A third woman told The Associated Press last week that she considered filing a workplace complaint against Cain over what she deemed sexually suggestive remarks and gestures that included a private invitation to his corporate apartment. And a former pollster for the restaurant association has said he witnessed yet another episode involving a different woman.
Bialek said Monday that Cain, an acquaintance, made a sexual advance in mid-July 1997, when she had traveled to Washington to have dinner with him in hopes he could help her find work or get her job back at the restaurant association. She had been fired from a job in the group's education arm.
The two met in Washington, she said, and after dinner were in a car for what she thought was a ride to an office building.
"Instead of going into the offices he suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg, under my skirt toward my genitals," she said. "He also pushed my head toward his crotch."
She said she asked Cain what he was doing and recalled he replied, "You said you want a job, right?"
None of Cain's other accusers has provided details as graphic as Bialek's account. But Joel Bennett, an attorney who represents one of them, said her details were "similar in nature" to what his client encountered.
In his only public appearance of the day, Cain told Kimmel during the late-night interview that he got angry and disgusted as he watched Bialek and Allred. He said his wife didn't watch it but that he called her immediately afterward.
Minutes after Bialek's news conference, the Cain camp flatly denied the charges.
"Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone," spokesman J.D. Gordon said in a statement. Aides insisted that the newest allegation changed nothing and said Cain would move forward with his plans to attend a private speech in Phoenix on Tuesday and a debate Wednesday night in Michigan.
"We are staying on message and talking about the issues," Gordon told The Associated Press.
As if to prove the point, the Cain campaign released a new web video — targeting voters in the lead-off caucus state of Iowa — highlighting what it says are excessive federal regulations on farmers that are driving up costs for consumers.
But, behind the scenes, the campaign appeared to hunker down in damage-control mode; voicemails for Gordon and campaign manager Mark Block were full by mid-afternoon. Later Monday, the campaign announced Cain's Phoenix news conference.
Aides made it clear he would fight the allegations, casting them as baseless and seeking to undermine the credibility of Bialek and her attorney.
"The questions the media should be asking are who's paying for Gloria Allred's fee, how did Ms. Bialek get introduced to Ms. Allred, and was she paid to come forward with these false accusations or was she promised employment?" a campaign statement said.
Allred has said Bialek approached her and that her client received no compensation for stepping forward.
Bialek appeared in interviews Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS' "The Early Show," NBC's "Today" show and CNN.
Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in New Hampshire and Jim Davenport in South Carolina contributed to this report
Follow Shannon McCaffrey at www.twitter.com/smccaffrey13
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