ATLANTA — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain went on the offensive Tuesday against the only woman to publicly accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior, the latest in a series of claims that have threatened his White House ambitions. He rejected the allegations and said he didn't remember the woman.
"Who is Sharon Bialek?" Cain's advisers asked in a statement outlining the Chicago-area woman's "long and troubled history, from the courts to personal finances." Bialek on Monday accused Cain of behaving inappropriately when they were alone more than a decade ago.
The statement included references to civil lawsuits in the Cook County Court system in Illinois allegedly relating to Bialek and cited news reports of her involvement in a paternity case and a bankruptcy filing.
The statement, issues less than 24 hours after Bialek went public, presumably was an effort to make her appear less credible.
"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.
Cain has vowed to "set the record straight" at a news conference Tuesday in Phoenix.
"There is not an ounce of truth to all these allegations" and the graphic account from Bialek is "totally fabricated," the Georgia businessman told late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.
Before facing the media, Cain said in an interview Tuesday with ABC News and Yahoo! News that he did not remember Bialek by name. "I didn't even recognize her," he said. He said he would not pull out of the race over "baseless attacks."
"I reject all of those charges," Cain said. "I have never acted inappropriately with anyone."
At least one of Cain's rivals for the GOP nomination called on him to address the accusations.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called the allegations "particularly disturbing" and said Cain must address them. Romney said he wouldn't judge whether Bialek's claims are true, nor would he say whether they disqualified Cain from the race.
"These are serious allegations and they're going to have to be addressed," Romney told ABC News/Yahoo! in an interview Tuesday.
Cain agreed with Romney.
"He's right," Cain said in his interview with ABC News and Yahoo! News. "They are disturbing to me. They are serious and I have taken them seriously."
Bialek stood by her accusation when questioned Tuesday morning in the wake of Cain's denial, saying in a nationally broadcast interview that she had "nothing to gain" by coming forward. She said "it's not about me. I'm not running for president."
Bialek on Monday to put a name and a face to what had, until then, been at least three anonymous sexual harassment allegations against Cain. Bialek's accusations that Cain groped her in a car after she asked for his help finding a job spun his unorthodox campaign into an uncertain new territory.
An upstart in the presidential race, Cain shot to the top of public opinion polls and emerged, however temporarily, in surveys as the main conservative challenger to Mitt Romney. Tea party activists and conservatives unenthused with the former Massachusetts governor have flocked to Cain's tell-it-like-it-is style and self-styled outsider image in recent weeks.
There were, however, growing signs of unease in conservative circles as, one by one, a handful of women claimed Cain acted inappropriately toward them while the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
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