SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Sharon Bialek’s former boyfriend said Monday the then-couple spent an evening with Herman Cain in the 1990s. That countered the GOP presidential candidate’s earlier statements that he never met the woman who has accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior more than a decade ago.

“Sharon indeed did meet and spend time with Mr. Cain,” Victor Jay Zuckerman said.

In turn, Cain repeated his assertion that he had never met his accuser.

“I’m standing by what I have said,” Cain said in Green Bay, Wis.

Hours after Zuckerman stepped forward to give his account, an interview with Gloria Cain aired on Fox News Channel. Mrs. Cain defended her husband as turmoil over allegations of sexual impropriety while he led the National Restaurant Association stretched into a third week.

“I know the person that he is, and I know that the person that they were talking about, I don’t know who that person is. We’ve been married for 43 years,” Mrs. Cain told Fox News’ “On the Record” in an interview taped over the weekend before

Zuckerman came forward. “If I haven’t seen parts of that person in 43 years, I don’t think that I’m that simple that I’d miss something that significant.”

During her interview, she acknowledged “troubles” in their marriage but also said would not be “the little woman at home” who blindly stood by her husband.

“I will not be one of those people who will stand up on stage with a smile and knowing that you were wrong. You know not to do anything because you’ll be there by yourself,” she said.

Herman Cain, trying to get back to a business-as-usual campaign schedule, gave an interview to the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel but stumbled through a question on Libya. The video ricocheted around the Internet.

After saying he did not agree with President Barack Obama’s handing of the revolt against longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Cain said he would have taken similar steps to Obama. But he hesitated before answering.

“I got to go back, see, got all this stuff twirling around in my head,” Cain said, shifting in his chair and crossing his legs during a 10-second silence.

Asked later about the moment, Cain dismissed it and told reporters: “I paused so I could gather my thoughts.” An aide later said Cain hadn’t had enough sleep.

It was another distraction for the candidate just as he was looking to get beyond questions about his behavior while he led the restaurant association more than a decade ago. The allegations have dogged his campaign for the GOP nomination and sent his poll numbers slipping seven weeks before the leadoff caucuses in Iowa.

Cain has denied wrongdoing and vowed to stay in the presidential race.

Even so, he has been unable to put the controversy behind him.

Zuckerman, a Louisiana pediatrician, corroborated some of Bialek’s story — with attorney Gloria Allred at his side — just as the firestorm around Cain seemed to be subsiding since the first disclosures on Oct. 30 rocked Cain’s campaign. There hadn’t been any new information disclosed in the past week about Cain or the accusations, and plans for a joint news conference by his accusers seemed increasingly unlikely.

A week ago, Cain said he didn’t remember Bialek and had never seen her until she went public with allegations that Cain groped her when she sought his help getting a job after the trade group he led had fired her.

“I saw Ms. Allred and her client yesterday in that news conference for the very first time,” Cain said after that event. “As I sat in my hotel room with a couple of my staff members, as they got to the microphone, my first response in my mind and reaction was, I don’t even know who this woman is. Secondly, I didn’t recognize the name at all.”

Later, Cain added: “I don’t even know who this woman is. I tried to remember if I recognized her and I didn’t.”

But, on Monday, Zuckerman echoed Bialek’s account of the two of them meeting Cain — and spending the evening with him — in Chicago in 1997 at the National Restaurant Association convention. He said that Cain then invited them to an after-dinner party in a hotel suite.

“At that party, Mr. Cain engaged both of us in conversation,” Zuckerman said.
Later that year, Zuckerman said, Bialek told him that Cain inappropriately touched her when, at Zuckerman’s suggestion, she met him in Washington to seek employment help.

“When she returned, she was upset,” Zuckerman said. “She said that something had happened and that Mr. Cain had touched her in an inappropriate manner. She said she handled it and didn’t want to talk about it any further.”

On Monday, Cain’s team pointed to his earlier statement that he does not remember Bialek.

Cain attorney Lin Wood, in an interview with The Associated Press, said Cain met with a large number of people while leading the National Restaurant Association.

And if someone remembers meeting Cain, Wood said, it is possible that Cain would not remember them.

“He doesn’t recall Ms. Bialek,” Wood said. “But what he does know is that he has never done such a thing as she alleges to any person.”

Mrs. Cain directly challenged Bialek’s story.

“You weren’t in a car with Herman. I don’t know where you have been but I know Herman Cain and I know he has always had too much respect for women to treat them in any type of negative way,” she said. “That wasn’t part of his being.”

At least three other women have claimed that Cain engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct toward them in the late 1990s when he ran the restaurant industry’s Washington-based trade association.

Allred, who represents Bialek, called on Cain to acknowledge that he had met his accuser. She would not say whether other Cain accusers have contacted her, saying only that she represents only Bialek.

As Allred sought to poke holes in Cain’s story, the candidate was campaigning in Wisconsin. He attended a private fundraising event and, later, was appearing for a tailgate party at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. He was heading to Iowa on Tuesday to campaign.

Meanwhile, Cain’s wife, who has been all but absent on the campaign trail this year, made her comments in her first television interview since the allegations were leveled.

“It made me realize you can live your whole life trying to be respectful, trying to be faithful, trying to have faith, just trying to treat people right and anyone can come from any place and say whatever they want to say about you,” Gloria Cain said.

“The problem with that is there are people who will believe that person over you.”

Associated Press writers Jack Gillum in Washington, Barbara Sambriski in New York, Ray Henry in Atlanta and Dinesh Ramde in Green Bay, Wis., contributed to this report. Elliott reported from Washington.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Click here to read: “Woman about Cain: “… he put his hand on my leg, under my skirt toward my genitals… He also pushed my head toward his crotch”


Holbrook Mohr and Philip Elliott

Associated Press