The women who have accused GOP contender Herman Cain of sexual harassment have agreed to hold a joint news conference to air their stories, one of their attorneys said Wednesday, a move that could fuel a controversy that has dogged the businessman’s campaign for more than a week.
Joel P. Bennett, who represents federal employee Karen Kraushaar, 55, said in an interview that he was planning the news conference with Gloria Allred, who represents Chicago homemaker Sharon Bialek, 50. Details of the joint appearance have not yet been worked out, Bennett said.
Kraushaar’s name became public Tuesday but she has not described the details of the alleged harassment at the National Restaurant Association, where she worked more than a decade ago. Bialek held a news conference Monday in which she accused Cain of groping her in a car after the two dined together in Washington in 1997. She was seeking job advice from Cain, then chairman of the association.
Cain has forcefully denied the sexual harassment allegations by Kraushaar, Bialek and two other, unnamed women, saying he did not recall even meeting Bialek. He vowed in a news conference Tuesday to remain in the presidential race.
Polls have shown Cain effectively tied for the lead in the GOP primary race with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Bennett said Wednesday that “my client has decided to hold a joint news conference with as many of the women who complained of sexual harassment by Herman Cain as will participate.”
Kraushaar, in a statement released by Bennett, said she had not yet heard from any women other than Bialek’s attorney about allegations of sexual harassment by Cain.Bennett said Kraushaar had left telephone messages for two other women.
“We are still hopeful that they will have the courage to come forward, but we completely understand if they choose not to,” she said. “Anyone should be able to report allegations of sexual harassment without fear that their lives and careers will be put on public display and laid open to public scrutiny.”
Bennett’s comments came as GOP activists and leaders said they remain concerned about the allegations and the political fallout for Cain, with some saying his candidacy may not recover.
“My sense is that his candidacy is going to evaporate,” said Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican strategist who until recently served as campaign manager for Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). “At the end of the day, what people are going to say is he can’t win” against President Obama in the general election.
Steve Scheffler, an Iowa conservative activist, said Cain “needs to deal with it and get it out of the way or maybe consider some other options. . . . It’s becoming a huge distraction, and we ought to be about the business of beating Barack Obama.”
The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), denied Cain’s assertion that Democrats are behind the allegations.
She said Cain “should step up and go beyond just his flat denials because they stretch credulity. . . . It’s hard to imagine four completely different women, who have no previous connection to each other, would come forward separately, coincidentally.”
Kraushaar left the restaurant association as part of a settlement after her harassment complaint, Bennett has said. She went on to work in communications for the federal government — first for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and most recently in the Treasury Department’s office of the inspector general for tax administration.
On Wednesday, Kraushaar confirmed a report by the Associated Press that she also filed a workplace complaint at INS. The complaint asserted that she had not been allowed to work from home after a serious car accident. She also accused a manager of circulating an e-mail with a sexual joke.
Kraushaar told the AP that she considered her employment complaint “relatively minor” and she later dropped it.
“The concern was that there may have been discrimination on the job and that I was being treated unfairly,” she said.