WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican U.S. presidential candidate Herman Cain’s campaign on Tuesday attempted to undermine the credibility of a woman who accused him of sexual harassment, saying she has a “long and troubled history.”
Cain, a former pizza company executive, has led many opinion polls in the race to be the Republican nominee to face President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in next year’s election.
His campaign is trying to respond to allegations from Sharon Bialek of Chicago, who on Monday said Cain made a crude sexual advance toward her in 1997 when he headed the National Restaurant Association.
“As Ms. Sharon Bialek has placed herself in the public spotlight through making patently false allegations against Herman Cain, it is only fair to compare her track record alongside Mr. Cain‘s,” Cain’s campaign said in a blast email.
Cain himself said he no memory of Bialek.
“As far as these latest charges, I don’t even remember. I reject all of those charges. How can I defend charges when I don’t remember this person by name?” Cain said in an interview with ABC News/Yahoo!
“I don’t remember knowing her,” he said.
Cain was due to hold a news conference in Phoenix at 3 p.m. local time/2200 GMT Tuesday to respond to her charges. He said late on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show that “there is not an ounce of truth in all of the accusations.”
The email said Bialek has had “a long and troubled history, from the courts to personal finances -- which may help explain why she has come forward 14 years after an alleged incident with Mr. Cain, powered by celebrity attorney and long-term Democrat donor Gloria Allred.”
The campaign listed Bialek’s involvement in a number of civil lawsuits in the Cook County court system in Chicago, and said she filed for bankruptcy in 1991 and 2001.
“Ms. Bialek has worked for nine employers over the last seventeen years,” the email said.
Three other women have said they were subjected to harassment from Cain but Bialek, who identified herself as a registered Republican and single mother, is the first to go public.
U.S. media reports on Tuesday identified one of the three others. Online news site The Daily gave her name as Karen Kraushaar, 55, an employee of the U.S. Treasury Department.
National Public Radio said Kraushaar had confirmed she was one of the women but she declined to say more. NPR said she worked as the media director of the restaurant association during some of Cain’s time in charge.
BIALEK SAYS SHE‘S NOT BEING PAID
Tuesday’s email by the Cain campaign questioned who was financing Bialek’s legal team and “whether any media agreed to pay for her story.” She said she had not sold her story.
Bialek told CNN on Tuesday she had declared bankruptcy.
“I have had bankruptcy and it was after the death of my mother to help my father pay for medical bills and a custody battle. And, like millions of other people out there, you know, I‘m struggling,” she said.
”My whole objective is to tell the truth and also help other people out there who may have been in similar situations.
And initially I went into this hoping every hope of hopes that Herman would just step forward. That was my actually primary goal,” she said.
The Chicago Tribune said Bialek lives with her fiance, an executive in the medical equipment industry, in a Chicago suburb.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday showed the percentage of Republicans who viewed Cain favorably dropped 9 points, to 57 percent from 66 percent a week earlier.
A majority of Republican voters, and nearly six in 10 Republican supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement, say they are not concerned about the allegations against Cain, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday.