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THE SITUATION ROOM
Herman Cain Addresses Sexual Harassment Allegations
Aired November 8, 2011 - 17:36 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(HERMAN CAIN PRESS CONFERENCE SENT AS A SEPARATE DOCUMENT)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Herman Cain, in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his new attorney, Lin Wood, announcing that he's going to fight all of these accusations, including a second woman who has now gone public with her charge that he sexually harassed her when she worked at the National Restaurant Association back in the late 1990s. This second woman, Karen Kraushaar, now given interviews to both "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," saying she's ready to go into specific details on what her allegations against Herman Cain were and what she says happened back in the late 1990s.
He's flatly denying that he did anything wrong, anything inappropriate. And you heard from his new attorney, Lin Wood, making that exact same point.
We've got a lot to digest now from what we just heard. We have all of our reporters and our analysts standing by.
Let's get some reaction. First of all, Gloria Borger's been working this.
Let me read, Gloria, what this second woman -- yesterday, we heard from Sharon Bialek from Chicago in a live news conference we carried here on CNN. And today, this second woman, Karen Kraushaar, telling "The Washington Post," "I am interested in a joint news conference for all the women where we would all be together with our attorneys, and all of these accusations could be reviewed as a collective body of evidence," she told "The Washington Post."
I think this takes this to a whole new level, because this woman works at the U.S. Treasury Department. She's a communications specialist. And she's got a lot of expertise in this area.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I spoke with a close friend of hers before we went on the air who said the same thing to me, Wolf.
I think she's reluctant, I was told, because she's concerned about her personal safety. She feels she would feel better standing there with other women who were afraid to come forward before this, and that there would be some kind of safety in numbers, if you will.
In terms of what we just heard from Herman Cain, the interesting thing to me is I don't think it shed any new light on his response to the allegations, but he did keep saying that, "Some people don't want Herman Cain to get the Republican nomination or become president of the United States." He also then went on to say that he wouldn't be surprised if there will be others who would be accusing him of sexual harassment. He said, "The machine to keep a businessman out of the White House is what's behind this."
So, it seems, as we heard about the right wing conspiracy -- remember Hillary Clinton -- we seem to be hearing about a left wing conspiracy here. But again, he did not shine any light on the specific allegations other than saying he did not even remember who this woman was.
BLITZER: Let's get some reaction from all of our analysts.
Erick Erickson, let's begin with you.
He specifically said, Herman Cain, at one point -- and I'm reading from my notes -- "The Democratic machine brought forward a troubled woman to make these accusations." He's referring to Sharon Bialek, who came forward yesterday.
What was your reaction to the defense outlined today by Herman Cain?
ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: You know, Wolf, I could hear the frustration in his voice. And look, I know Herman. I owe a lot to Herman. I'm on the radio in Atlanta because he left to run for president and passed his show off to me.
I like the guy. I understand he's frustrated. His supporters are really frustrated.
He's being asked, in effect, to prove a negative. This woman says that he harassed her 12, 15 years ago. How does he prove something didn't happen 12, 15 years ago? It's his word against hers.
But at the same time, talking about himself in the third person repeatedly, bringing up his family, when you see these press conferences, typically you're surrounded by the family, and they weren't there. I don't think that Herman was able to put this story to bed today. I think the story is going to continue now with a trickling out.
And regardless of whether I think he didn't do it, or I think he did it, or what, the poll numbers suggest a lot of women think he did, and this isn't going to help him.
BLITZER: Donna Brazile, what do you think? How did he do, Herman Cain, and specifically when he was asked, why are these woman coming forward now? He said, "Some people don't want Herman Cain to be president of the United States."
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, let me just respond on one of the things he said, and he said the "Democratic machine." Well, first of all, if the Democratic machine had anything to say about a Republican nominee or the Republican primary, we would love to have Herman Cain as the nominee of the Republican Party, but that's not going to happen. Look, I think the Republicans are going to have to face the music, and that is women will not tolerate the kind of non-denial that Herman Cain consistently has given us over the last two weeks. He should have put all the issues on the table, up front, but these women are now coming forward. They're no longer anonymous, at least two of them.
And so I thought today was a sad episode. Herman Cain still doesn't get it. This is a serious allegation -- these are serious allegations, and he should have been better prepared to answer them.
BLITZER: Alex Castellanos, you're a Republican strategist. Does he survive this current uproar?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Not the way it's going now. The way -- from the press conference I just saw today, it looked like Herman Cain's troubles are just beginning.
Like Erick, I know Herman, too. A wonderful guy. The guy I know is honest, decent, straightforward. I wouldn't think involved in anything like this. But today, to Gloria's point, when someone has a press conference and says, by the way, you're going to hear more of these charges and they're also going to be lies, that tells you something.
And also, you know, Republicans were pretty hard on Bill Clinton when he had his -- let's say difficulties in the White House. And we held him to some pretty high standards.
He had to tell the truth. He had to come clean. And we criticized him fairly harshly for attacking the women who made charges.
We can't lower our standards now. We have to hold our candidates at least to the same high level.
So, I don't think -- a rule is that when you're going to have a press conference to explain something like this, you ought to have an explanation in it. And I don't know that Herman did today, so I'd have to concur with Erick that I don't think Herman has moved the ball forward here. I know he wants to get back to his campaign, but I don't think that happened today.
BLITZER: James Carville, you remember the 1992 campaign when Bill Clinton was running for president of the United States, and it was before the New Hampshire primary. And Gennifer Flowers came forward and made direct accusations against then-candidate Bill Clinton.
He responded going on "60 Minutes" with Hillary Clinton. He not only survived that charge, he won the Democratic nomination, became president of the United States for two terms.
When you heard Herman Cain today, what went through your mind?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I want to echo what Donna said, which is the obvious. There's no Democrat that doesn't want Herman Cain to be the Republican nominee. I mean, that doesn't take any sense to figure out. It also takes no sense to figure out he's not going to be the Republican nominee. He wasn't going to be it before this.
The second thing is, while there was no left wing conspiracy at all, it would be stupid to have one, there obviously was a right wing conspiracy to try to undermine Bill Clinton because he was skillful and successful. He not only survived it, he became to be the most popular politician probably on the planet Earth today.
But the idea that somehow or another this is analogous barely, barely holds up. But yes, he did survive the Gennifer Flowers allegations, he did survive it all, because people thought he had an underlying skill, and there was always a very good chance that he was going to be the nominee, where Cain has none.
But Donna's right. We're all pulling for Herman. We want him to win. We're not trying to undermine him.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to go through some of these points. Guys, stand by. We'll take a quick break.
Herman Cain says under the right circumstances, he would be ready to take a lie detector test to show that he has nothing to hide, that he is telling the truth.
Much more of the breaking news coverage coming up right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: We will get through this. The fact is, these anonymous allegations are false, and now the Democrat machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman to make false accusations, statements, many of which exceed common sense, and they certainly exceed the standards of decency in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: When he speaks of a so-called troubled woman, he's referring to the woman who came out yesterday, Sharon Bialek, making the allegations of sexual harassment, if not sexual assault, back in 1997. But another woman today has gone public, Karen Kraushaar, an employee over at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. And that's taking on a whole new motion, a new momentum right now.
Gloria, I don't know if the two others who have suggested that there was sexual harassment are going to come forward, but I suspect we're going to be hearing a lot more.
BORGER: Yes. And I think that there's a possibility, at least according to the woman who works at Treasury, that perhaps there's a way she could get them all together.
BLITZER: She wants all four of these women to have a joint news conference.
BORGER: To have a news conference together for a little bit of security with their attorneys, because I think what has angered all of them, and I know this, is the same kind of thing that Herman Cain said today, which is disparaging the women, not only their stories, but talking about, for example, Sharon Bialek's troubled history, she's a troubled woman, disparaging her and her credibility. And I think that tends to make the women angry.
BLITZER: We did speak earlier, Alex Castellanos, with our own CNN contributor, Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist, who actually hired this second woman, Karen Kraushaar, after she left the National Restaurant Association, and Maria told us that Karen was grateful to her for hiring her, giving her a new job at the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She says, "I saved her from this monster." "Monster" being a direct quote she says about Herman Cain.
Now, that's a pretty powerful and damning statement, if you put it bluntly.
CASTELLANOS: It is. It is certainly nowhere near the Herman Cain that I've known over the years who is one of the decent and honest people I know. But that headline's going be to in a lot of newspapers tomorrow.
And to correct something I think that one of the reporters said, this is not a he said/she said story. This is a he said, she said, and she said and she said, and then another she said.
We now have four people, two with faces, and indications from Mr. Cain that there may be more. So this is going to be a real problem, I think, for Herman.
The lawyer, I thought, did a fantastic job. Lin Wood was terrific in drawing some very bright lines, making the case for Cain, 14 years ago, why now?
Herman should have stopped then. He should have stopped at that point and said, hey, I didn't do this, and that's why.
I think Herman managed to take all those bright, straight lines and turn it into a bowl of spaghetti. It's the Democrats who did it, but a couple of days ago it was Rick Perry who threw out the charges. And now it's a troubled woman. I think he complicated things today.
BLITZER: You know, Donna Brazile, if you take a look at where this is going over the next few days, if Herman Cain thinks he's ended it with this news conference today, I'm sure he's going to be sorely disappointed.
BRAZILE: Well, as you know, Wolf, we've heard from the Concerned Women of America, but we haven't really heard from Republican women. We've heard from Democratic women, but we should hear from women, because women are the majority of the electorate, they will help determine the next president of the United States. They value candidates who are honest, who have values, and especially family values.
So I think this is going to be a concern tomorrow in the Republican debate, when perhaps one of his candidates, like Mitt Romney today, raises this issue and says, Mr. Cain, you need to be more honest and forthright in discussing this matter.
BLITZER: Erick Erickson, you're in Georgia. You probably know or at least heard of Lin Wood. He's a high-profile lawyer, just like Gloria Allred is a high-profile lawyer. Lin Wood has represented a lot of very famous people, including Richard Jewel, former congressman Gary Condit. He was part of the legal team representing Kobe Bryant's accuser in that rape case, John and the late Patsy Ramsey.
So you're pretty familiar with him. He's got himself a pretty high- profile lawyer right now. What does that say to you?
ERICKSON: Yes. You know, it says to me, looking at a lot of the representation that Lin Wood has had in the past, there are people who have been wrongly accused of doing things, Gary Condit in the Chandra Levy matter, Richard Jewell in the Olympic Park bombing, now Herman Cain.
I wonder, though, Wolf -- I mean, I understand how emotions are going to be raw in the campaign, but he said repeatedly he had never met Sharon Bialek before. There's a picture now -- I think it came out yesterday -- of the two of them either earlier this year or last year, together with their arms around each other.
I just think -- you know, they had 10 days before this story came out originally to get their ducks in a row, and it seems like they're rushing now trying to get ahead of the story. They see the poll trends going down, but they might -- should have sat down a little bit longer and thought about this, and not have been so dismiss of Sharon Bialek, regardless of what happened.
And he is being asked to prove a negative, but we do know now there's a picture of them together in the past year. And he needed to have more. He wanted to try to turn the story in his favor today, and I think he just now raises more questions than answers.
BLITZER: And James Carville, can he save his run for the White House?
CARVILLE: No. I'll be glad to expand on it.
My view is, as I often repeat, that he never had a chance to begin with. And Erick and Alex are pretty clear, and I agree with them, that today, this press conference was not even neutral, it was a step backwards. And I wish I could say something differently, but it's pretty evident that this thing is going to continue, and there will be more things tomorrow, him saying, other women will come out.
He didn't put this story behind him, he put more story in front of him today. That's pretty clear.
BLITZER: And this story, obviously, as we all have been pointing out, not going away. Dramatic, new developments today. We'll have more right after this.
BLITZER: CNN's Jeanne Moos has been listening to all the allegations flying between Herman Cain and his accusers, and she thinks it's a classic case.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know what they say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be he said/she said.
MOOS: Even Herman Cain's accuser said her boyfriend said it.
SHARON BIALEK, ACCUSES HERMAN CAIN OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: He said, "It's going to be one of those he said/she said things."
MOOS: It even applies in reverse to the anonymous accusers who got settlement money promising not to talk.
STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT RAPPORT": It's a classic case of he said, she's legally prohibited from saying.
MOOS: The way "The Daily Show" put it --
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": The problem for Cain --
MOOS: -- is "He said, she said, she said, she said, she said," four the four accusers. But what is it they each said?
Here we go. She said --
BIALEK: He suddenly reached over and put his hand on my leg.
MOOS: He said --
CAIN: I don't even remember. I reject all of those charges.
MOOS (on camera): She even said --
BIALEK: He also grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch.
MOOS: He even said --
CAIN: I would, first, have to recognize who she is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't remember having drinks with her back in '97, you don't remember --
CAIN: Absolutely not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- giving her a ride in your car?
CAIN: No. I reject all the accusations. I don't remember that. MOOS: She said what?
BIALEK: I said, "What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend. This isn't what I came here for."
CAIN: These accusations that were revealed yesterday simply did not happen.
BIALEK: Mr. Cain said, "You want a job, right?" I asked him to stop, and he did.
CAIN: There's not an ounce of truth in all of these accusations.
MOOS (voice-over): When she said what she said, she often used his first name --
BIALEK: Unfortunately, for Herman, he's still in denial.
MOOS: -- while he said he didn't remember her name.
CAIN: I don't even know who this woman is.
MOOS: Amid all this he said/she said, might as well get fed. The Web site BuzzFeed concocted a parody Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor, HarassMint Chocolate Chip. Remember, this is fake, so don't ask for it at the store. "Mint ice cream with fondled fudge chunks and assaulted peanuts."
Back to the he said/she said. But what is has his wife said?
CAIN: And my wife said to me when I said, "Hello, Sweetheart. Did you see it?" She said, "Yes." I said, "What did you think?" She said, "I've known you for over 40 years. That stuff doesn't even sound like you."
BIALEK: I know what happened and he knows what happened.
MOOS: Which makes this a he knows/she knows.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: What a story.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.