WASHINGTON — A Chicago woman on Monday accused Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual aggression in July 1997 after she asked for his help in getting a job.
Sharon Bialek, who had worked at a National Restaurant Association affiliate when Cain was its chief executive, offered a graphic account at a New York news conference of her encounter with Cain. She said Cain suggested she engage with him sexually in return for his assistance.
After a week of allegations surrounding Cain, she's the first of four women who have alleged sexual improprieties to attach her name and face to the controversy. The association reached settlements with two of the women who alleged sexual harassment by Cain, and a third woman told the Associated Press last week that she also was harassed, but did not file a complaint.
Bialek said she decided to speak publicly to support the other women who will not reveal their names because of either fear or legal agreements to stay quiet.
"I want you, Mr. Cain, to come clean," said Bialek, 50. "I implore you, make this right."
The Cain campaign issued a denial. "All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false," it said in a statement. "Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone."
Accompanied by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, Bialek said she had worked for an education foundation connected to the restaurant association. She said she had met Cain during several industry functions and found him "incredibly inspirational."
When she lost her job, her then-boyfriend suggested that she seek Cain's help. She met Cain for drinks and dinner in Washington. Bialek said they then were in Cain's car parked near the association's office, which she said she thought they were about to visit.
Bialek alleged that Cain instead "suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals." She said he also pushed her head toward his crotch.
"I was very surprised and very shocked, and I said, 'What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend,' " she told the news conference. " 'This isn't what I came here for, Mr. Cain.' "
Bialek said Cain replied, "You want a job, right?"
She asked to be taken back to the hotel, which Cain did, she said. Bialek said she also was surprised to find that Cain had upgraded her room to a "palatial suite" at the Washington Hilton, where she was staying. Bialek said she'd thought she was checking into a regular room that her boyfriend had booked.
Bialek was born and raised in Chicago and has lived there most of her life, according to Allred. She is a Republican, a stay-at-home mother of a 13-year-old son and a college graduate who has worked as host of a cooking show, an account manager at Revlon and a director of corporate development at the Easter Seal Society, Allred said.
Public records of Bialek's personal financial circumstances shows a woman who has been intermittently in straits. She has filed for bankruptcy twice, in 1991 and 2001, and she has an Internal Revenue Service tax lien of $5,176.
Information from the Washington Post and New York Times was used in this report.