Not only is Herman Cain flatly calling his accuser, Sharon Bialek, a liar, he says he doesn’t even remember her at all.
“I reject all accusations,” he said in a defiant interview with ABC/Yahoo. “I don’t remember that. And also I don’t remember knowing her.”
In a defiant interview with ABC/Yahoo, Cain repeatedly stressed that he couldn’t recollect anything about Bialek, saying he didn’t even have a glimmer of recognition when he saw her take the podium at her press conference on Monday. He denied that he has acted improperly with women in the workplace at any time in his career despite reports that the National Restaurant Association settled two sexual harassment complaints against him in the 1990s.
“I can categorically say I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period,” he said. “i reject all of these charges. How can I defend charges when I don’t remember this person by name, I dont remember that she did work at the [National Restaurant Association Education Foundation], and when I first saw her I didn’t even recognize her.”
Asked whether she was lying, he replied: “yes.”
Cain’s claim is a daring one: corroborating Bialek’s accusations may be difficult, but it’s much easier to find evidence of whether or not they knew each other — especially considering she worked at a branch of the NRA during his tenure.
The former Godfather’s CEO suggested in the interviewer that an unidentified conspiracy is behind the harassment story, implying that the scandal was being fueled by ideological opposition to his campaign.
“I believe there’s an element in this country that does not want to see a businessman succeed,” he said.
Mitt Romney called the harassment complaints “serious allegations” and Bialek’s testimony “particularly disturbing” in an interview with ABC/Yahoo hours earlier, but Cain said he took no offense.
“He’s right,” he said. “They’re disturbing to me. They are serious. I have taken them serious. And my response is there’s absolutely no basis to them. It’s a distraction to this whole primary process. But I’m not initiating it.”
Cain made clear that he wasn’t going away anytime soon.
“I am not going to be discouraged to the point that I’m going to pull out of the race,” he said.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.