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Cain fights back after US sex accuser goes public

09 november 2011, 11:36
US Republican Herman Cain vowed to fight back Tuesday after a woman publicly accused him of groping her in the 1990s, saying his White House campaign would roar on despite the "fabricated" claims, AFP reports.

The outsider candidate and former pizza company CEO, who has remained at or near the top of polls despite sexual harassment allegations by three unidentified women, was accused for the first time in public on Monday.

Addressing a packed press conference in Manhattan, Sharon Bialek spoke in detail about how Cain put his hand up her skirt and grabbed her in a sexually suggestive way in a car after taking her out to dinner in Washington in 1997.

Bialek, standing with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, said the alleged harassment took place when she had sought Cain's assistance after losing her job in the National Restaurant Association, which he headed.

"He suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch," Bialek said.

"I was very, very surprised and very shocked. I said, 'What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend. This isn't what I came here for.' Mr Cain said, 'You want a job, right?'"

The new accusation could deal a blow to Cain's surprise success in the race, where he is vying with the more establishment candidate Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, for the nomination to take on President Barack Obama.

"I want you, Mr Cain, to come clean. Admit what you did," Bialek said, reading from a lengthy statement in the glare of camera lights, while Allred stood at her side.

Cain's campaign immediately denied the allegations, and at a cheerful appearance on a late-night comedy show, Cain insisted "all of this is totally fabricated... There's not an ounce of truth in all of these accusations."

He vowed to confront the allegations at a press conference later on Tuesday and insisted his campaign to unseat Obama was on track, saying: "I'm in it to win it," drawing a roar of applause from the audience.

"The voice of the people is stronger than the voice of the media and the people are going to elect the nominee and the next president of the United States," he added, during the light-hearted interview on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Until now, the reports about skeletons in Cain's closet, which began just over a week ago, have failed to make much of an impact. Cain has reacted mostly by stonewalling media queries, sometimes angrily.

The latest polls showed him tied or just ahead of Romney, who most analysts have predicted will ultimately become the Republican candidate. One ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Cain behind by a single percentage point.

Allred, who describes herself on her website as a "fearless lawyer, feminist, activist, television and radio commentator, warrior, advocate, and winner," said Bialek was not interested in a lawsuit or financial gain.

"She could have attempted to sell her story, but chose not to do so," Allred said.

"If all of these allegations by all of the women who have been reported to have made them are true, then I, for one, am disgusted at Mr Cain's serial sexual harassment of women," she added.

Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza, who has never before held elected office, is vying to be the party's first African American nominee.

If he succeeds, the right-wing Tea Party favorite would set up the first all-black presidential race in US history.

Washington news website Politico broke the sexual harassment allegation story, reporting on complaints from two women also dating back to the 1990s.

One accuser, who received a settlement reportedly worth $45,000, issued a statement on Friday through her lawyer saying Cain had made a "series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances."

Despite being released from the confidentiality clause in her settlement, the woman, now a government employee, said she wished to remain anonymous.

Cain belatedly conceded that he was aware that a female employee at the association had received a paid settlement, but he has denied any knowledge of a second alleged case and maintains he is completely innocent.

A third incident was also reported in the US media.

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