Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Star-slaying L.A. lawyer puts Herman Cain on the ropes

Herman Cain's 15 minutes were probably almost up, anyway. But celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred's unearthing of yet another alleged female recipient of unwanted advances by Mr. Cain just might speed up the clock.

It may not matter if there is any truth to the latest accusation that the most improbable of Republican presidential candidates groped Ms. Allred's client 14 years ago. American politicians have learned that, when Ms. Allred gets on their case, it is usually game over.

The Los Angeles litigator, whose website calls her "the most famous woman attorney" in the United States, has taken down two political stars in the past year alone.

Story continues below advertisement

A month before last year's California gubernatorial election, Ms. Allred came forward with Republican candidate Meg Whitman's former maid, alleging the ex-eBay chief executive knew her Hispanic help was an illegal immigrant and fired her only after entering politics. What had been a close race turned into a cakewalk for Jerry Brown.

Earlier this year, Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned within a day of Ms. Allred's news conference with former porn star Ginger Lee, who accused the New York Democrat of urging her to lie about their online conversations. Ms. Lee's "I did not sext Anthony Weiner" will go down as one of the more memorable quotes in the annals of American political sex scandals.

Now, it is Mr. Cain's turn to taste the Allred method.

The publicity-unshy Ms. Allred showed up at a jam-packed news conference in New York with Sharon Bialek, a woman who alleges she was groped by Mr. Cain during a 1997 encounter. She said she had met with Mr. Cain, who then ran the National Restaurant Association in Washington, to seek his help finding a job.

Instead, as Ms. Allred so artfully put it: "Mr. Cain decided to provide her with his idea of a stimulus package."

Until now, the U.S. media have exercised uncharacteristic self-restraint in covering the accusations of misconduct on Mr. Cain's part, with few of the tawdry details of the alleged incidents of sexual harassment seeping out. Ms. Allred took the Cain controversy into TMI (too-much-information) territory, right down to the "pleated black skirt" Ms. Bialek allegedly wore the evening of the meeting.

Ms. Bialek is the fourth woman who allegedly received unwanted attention from Mr. Cain more than a decade ago, but she is the first to go public while other accusers have remained anonymous.

Story continues below advertisement

The restaurant association has confirmed only one harassment claim brought against Mr. Cain by one of its employees in 1999. The woman and the association "subsequently entered into an agreement to resolve the matter, without any admission of liability," the NRA said in a statement on Friday.

The woman's lawyer added then that she accepted a "monetary settlement" and saw "no value in revisiting this matter now." But on Monday, Joel Bennett told The New York Times that Ms. Bialek's story "corroborates the claim" made by his client.

The Cain campaign put out a statement on Monday insisting that "all allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false … Fortunately, the American people will not allow Mr. Cain's bold 9-9-9 Plan, clear foreign policy vision and plans for energy independence to be overshadowed by these bogus attacks."

But what is truly fortunate for Mr. Cain is that the political circus of the past week has kept voters from focusing on his policies and preparedness for the presidency.

His 9-9-9 plan would mean higher taxes for middle-income earners and a major tax cut for the wealthy. His "clear foreign policy vision" includes the belief that China is seeking "nuclear capability" when it has had the bomb for almost five decades.

His inconsistent explanations regarding the alleged incidents of harassment, and his sniping at the media for asking him about them, have undermined his own brand as the straight-talking problem solver with a sense of humour.

Story continues below advertisement

"He's not going to be the nominee, if I can just be honest here," Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, told Fox News on Sunday. "He was never going to be the nominee."

Ms. Allred had to pounce before his 15 minutes were up. Americans might eventually thank her for drawing a curtain on this sideshow.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Columnist Konrad Yakabuski writes on politics, policy and business for The Globe and Mail’s Comment section and Report on Business. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.