Jewish World Review Nov 9, 2011 12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5772
Herman Cain's Skivvy Moment
By Roger Simon
"He put his hands on my legs, under my skirt, and reached for my genitals," she says. "He also grabbed my head and brought it toward his crotch."
This is Sharon Bialek speaking of Herman Cain.
Herman Cain is running for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. He has previously been accused by three unnamed women of sexual harassment.
Bialek's accusation is different, however. If true, the allegations would appear to be sexual assault, usually defined as "when someone touches any part of another person's body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person's consent."
Cain's encounter with Bialek in the front seat of his car allegedly took place 14 years ago. And while Bialek says she told two people about the event shortly after it occurred, she never went to the police or filed any civil suit.
Which is not all that surprising. Many women are filled with a deep sense of embarrassment or shame after such incidents and often end up at least partly blaming themselves.
Today, however, Bialek blames Herman Cain.
"Come clean," Bialek says to Cain via the TV cameras.
She says she is speaking out now in order to become a "face and voice ... to all women who don't come forward out of fear."
The Cain campaign issues a statement denying Bialek's accusations moments after she is done making them on TV. "All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false; Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone," the statement says.
It then goes on to champion Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan, as if that will get things back on track.
Of Bialek, little is known — though much probably will be as the press burrows deep into her past. She has been identified to America by her high-profile lawyer, Gloria Allred.
Allred says Bialek is a "registered Republican" and "a college graduate." She is the "mother of a 13-year-old son" and was the "co-host of a cooking show" on television. She also worked for Revlon, WGN radio and CBS radio, all in Chicago, and the National Restaurant Association's Educational Foundation. She had been fired from that last job and went to Washington, D.C., to seek Cain's help in getting a new job.
Allred does not say it, because she does not need to, but Bialek is white and Cain is black. How or if that will matter to people is not known.
Cain recently said of the attacks on him that "relative to the left, I believe that race is a bigger driving factor. I don't think it's a driving factor on the right."
Toure, a black author who recently published the book "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?" said recently on MSNBC's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell that Cain has indulged in "moments of minstrelsy" to appease white conservatives.
Race was not mentioned during Bialek's news conference. Indignation was.
"I want you, Mr. Cain, to come clean," Bialek said. "Just admit what you did. Admit you were inappropriate to people, and then move forward."
But just what direction Cain will now move in is not obvious. The most recent RealClearPolitics average of leading polls shows him still at the front of the Republican field, leading Mitt Romney by 24.8 percent to 22.4 percent.
Cain certainly looks to be in a tough spot, but allegations of sexual impropriety — even when admitted — do not automatically end the career of a popular politician.
In 2003, less than a week before a special election for governor, first-time candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger was accused in the Los Angeles Times in chilling detail by women who said he had groped and touched them.
The number of accusers eventually rose to 15, and Schwarzenegger was forced to say: "Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes ... and I have done things that were not right, which I thought then was playful. But I now recognize that I have offended people."
And Arnold Schwarzenegger won the election and became governor of the largest state in the land.
In January 1992, Bill Clinton was accused by Gennifer Flowers of having had a 12-year affair with her. Clinton denied it, and his campaign viciously attacked Flowers, though after his re-election he was forced to admit having had a sexual encounter with her.
The other sexual accusations against Clinton came after he was safely in his second term, though the Monica Lewinsky affair led to his impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate.
While the scandal was raging, I asked Clinton's press secretary, Mike McCurry, what the image of the presidency had become in such sexually explicit times.
"It has been a result of TV," McCurry said, "which brings you (to) people, warts and all. The president is now in your living room. Sports heroes used to be larger than life, but in the TV era they have been reduced to human beings. Everyone is stripped down to their skivvies pretty quickly these days."
Some survive these moments, and some do not. Being a celebrity helps. We have grown used to being forced to imagine our celebrities in their skivvies. ("Usually briefs," Clinton said in 1994 when asked at a town hall whether he wore boxers or briefs.)
But Herman Cain is no Bill Clinton and no Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is just Herman Cain. That has been enough to get him to the front of a very weak field. Where he goes from here may not be forward.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate