If you thought things could get no stranger in the curious case of Herman Cain, consider this: The latest sexual harassment allegations were leveled against him in a building called the Monastery.
It wasn’t a real monastery. That’s the name of the clubhouse of the Friars Club, a New York institution dedicated to what it calls “ribald comedy.” And ribaldry is exactly what the reporters got when they crowded into the room Monday afternoon to hear the complaints of the fourth woman to allege that the Republican presidential candidate had crossed a line with the ladies.
Ubiquitous scandal lawyer Gloria Allred took Woman No. 4, Sharon Bialek, by the hand and led her to the huge cluster of microphones. “She reached out to Mr. Cain for help in finding another job,” Allred said. “Mr. Cain instead decided to provide her with his idea of a stimulus package.”
Coarse laughter sounded in the room. Bialek rolled her eyes. Mercifully, she did not take up the stimulus package joke and instead gave a steamy account of what happened outside the National Restaurant Association, where Cain worked more than a decade ago.
“He parked the car down the block,” she recounted. “But instead of going into the offices, 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.”
The testimony instantly succeeded in giving a pubic-hair-on-a-Coke-can seediness to the 2012 campaign. And nobody came out looking particularly good.
The Cain camp reacted with more adamant denials of “more false accusations” and with a sarcastic tweet: “Welcome to the campaign, Gloria Allred. What took you so long?”
Conservatives such as Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh immediately attacked the accuser.
It remains to be seen where this coming out by Bialek, the first Cain accuser to go public, will take the harassment scandal and Cain’s quixotic candidacy. Before this latest accusation, the scandal hadn’t done Cain much harm.
According to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Nov. 2-5, only 13 percent of Republicans said it had made them “a great deal” or “quite a bit” concerned about voting for Cain. Fifty-four percent said they weren’t concerned and another 15 percent said they were “just a little” concerned.
Allred, however, set out to change that. The lawyer, who as conservatives pointed out has given generously to Democratic campaigns, said in her introduction to Bialek: “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.”
Bialek, introduced as a registered Republican, came across as more genuine than her celebrity lawyer. She described how, when she came to him seeking his help finding a job, he upgraded her room at the Capitol Hilton to a suite and then took her out for an Italian dinner before making the unwanted maneuvers in the car. When she asked him to unhand her, Bialek recalled, “Mr. Cain said, ‘you want a job, right?’”
Now Cain is the one who wants a job, and his accuser gave the job seeker some advice. “America is in a horrible turmoil,” she said. “We need a leader who can set an example. … Mr. Cain, I implore you, make this right so that you and the country can move forward and focus on the real issues at hand.”
Of course, few people, supporters or opponents, actually expect Cain to become the Republican nominee; he has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the skills and organization to make it to the nomination.
But for now, unfortunately, the issue at hand is where Herman Cain’s hands have been.
Dana Milbank’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.