Sharon Bialek visited the morning shows to explain why she is publicly accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment. While some interviewers were more sympathetic than others, Bialek stayed on message, with celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred by her side.
Cain's campaign, meanwhile, is putting out the word that Bialek has apparently filed for bankruptcy twice, suggesting she a financial motive lies behind the media blitz. The moment any interviewer from the various networks pressed Bialek on that, Allred cut in, saying that yes, like many Americans these days, Bialek is struggling financially, but she did not sell her story when she easily could have.
On CNN Monday night, Bialek sat for Piers Morgan and gave some of the details she did not offer up during her Friars Club press conference. She said it was Cain's idea to have dinner the night the incident allegedly occurred; that they both drank wine; that Cain knew her boyfriend, that monogamy is "sacred" to Bialek; and that she was shocked when he hit on her. "I respected him, I looked up to him. It was shocking to me that he used that power in that way," Bialek told Morgan. And she said she expected bad press: "I don't back down from controversy and things I felt I could do this for the other women who couldn't or wouldn't ... I'm willing to handle it. I'm a tough girl." When the former Fleet Street editor asked about the two people Bialek says she told (sans detail) about the incident, Allred cut in to say two respected men have given depositions "under the penalty of perjury." She added that Bialek told them about the alleged incident when it happened in 1997.
Tuesday morning, the blitz continued. On NBC's Today show, Ann Curry asked Bialek about her financial struggles. "I expected this ... [but] this is not about me," Bialek said. "I am not the one running for president." Allred cut in, "It's also important to know that she could have sold her story. She like millions of Americans has financial difficulty. She's up front about that." As for the charge that Cain pushed her head toward her crotch and said, "You want a job right?" Curry asked, "Those were his exact words?" Bialek said yes. Later, Allred denied political motivations, saying though she's given money to President Obama, she also represented one of the women Democratic Rep. Anthony Wiener sexted with before he resigned.
On ABC's Good Morning America, George Stephanopolous -- once a campaign aide for Bill Clinton -- was digging around in the possible political motivations that Bialek might have.
Stephanopoulos: You are a registered Republican.Bialek: I am, George.Stephanopoulos: Have you had any contact with any of the other Republican campaigns?Bialek: None at all.Stephanopoulos: None at all?Bialek: No.Stephanopoulos: Zero?Bialek: Zero.
Allred and Bialek said they wouldn't answer whether Bialek had contacted the lawyer of another Cain accuser, Joel Bennett. Why? After Bialek struggled a bit, Allred cut in: "Because that's not the issue here." Why didn't Bialek say anything back when she says the harassment occurred? "There's a couple reasons," Bialek replied. "Number One, I was embarrassed as many women are in these kinds of situations, and I just wanted it to go away. Number Two, I wasn't employed with the educational foundation of the National Restaurant Association so I didn't believe at the time there was any recourse. The most thing that I did was discuss it with two close confidants so I could kind of get it of my chest."
Bialek also said she saw Cain earlier this year at a Tea Party conference. She says she didn't know Cain was going to be there, but she talked to him because, "After all these years and I kinda wanted to face the demon." What happened? "I shook his hand. He did remember me. And he looked a little uncomfortable. And he had to go on stage. He was whisked away and that was that." That account is somewhat different from the version of that moment recounted by Chicago radio host Amy Jacobson, who told the Chicago Sun-Times' Michael Sneed that she saw an encounter that looked friendly: "It looked sort of flirtatious," Jacobson told Sneed. "I mean they were hugging. But she could have been giving him the kiss of death for all I know. I had no idea what they were talking about, but she was inches from his ear."
On CNN's American Morning, a sympathetic Carol Costello introduced Bialek as "a single mother from Chicago who says she did it for the other women who could not or would not come forward." Costello mentioned Rush Limbaugh had made a gross noise when mispronouncing her name, that Bialek had "been attacked." Bialek said she did it all for her 13-year-old son, who she said told her, "'You have to do the right thing.' I think you need to tell on him that's out of the mouth of a 13-year-old ... I want to be a role model for him." She explained that her financial trouble was due to paying for medical bills after her mother's death and a custody battle.
Then there was a lovefest with Allred. How did Bialek come to be represented by the famous lawyer? "One of the people who will vouch for me said, 'Gloria's the best and you have to go to her and she will walk you through this.' And she has. I couldn't have done it with out her." How is Bialek paying? "I was very upfront with her. I said, 'I can't afford this, I don't know what to do,' and she said, 'Sharon, I would be proud to take your case pro bono,' and that means ... she would do it out of her courtesy, and so that's how were doing it." Allred explained helpfully: "Pro bono is for the public good, and we as attorneys have a duty to help when we can."
Bialek said she watched Cain's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live Monday night. "You know it's funny for the very first part of what he said -- 'anger, frustration' -- that's exactly how I feel." Then she mentioned Cain's wife, adding, "You know, that's who I feel for the most in this whole thing." Bialek lamented that America has not come very far since the 1990s in dealing with sexual harassment. "It's a shame, too, because here we are today, going through the the same difficulties, and it's amazing that we as women are still fighting these things and are still embarrassed to talk about these things as we were back then."
Then it was onto CBS's Early Show, where Bialek said she is doing it all for the good of Cain himself: "I actually did it because I wanted to help him. I wanted to give him a platform to come clean, to tell the truth … And he still hasn't done it, and it's really a shame, because he could have."
And if Cain did "come clean," could Bialek vote for him? "I'd have to think about that. I hope that he does and I'd have to think about that one."
Cain is scheduled to counter Bialek's media blitz with a press conference of his own Tuesday afternoon.