Herman Cain was at the center of a media maelstrom before the first accusations of sexual harassment surfaced against him late last month. America’s fourth estate and its audience has been uniquely fascinated with the Republican Presidential candidate for months now. With his ongoing sex scandal, the media circus focused on Mr. Cain reached a new apex and manifested itself in physical form at a press conference hosted by well-known sexual harassment attorney Gloria Allred and the first of Mr. Cain’s accusers to go public, Sharon Bialek.
Ms. Bialek’s debut occurred in a stately wood paneled room at the Friar’s Club, a private hangout for comedians and other assorted notables on East 55th Street. Reporters began arriving over-an-hour-and-half prior to the event’s scheduled start. Fights broke out in the crowd as people jockeyed for speace.
Before Ms. Bialek and Ms. Allred arrived, Howard Stern Show writer Benjy Bronk stormed the stage. Some members of the crowd recognized Bronk from past appearances crashing other press conferences (most notably Congressman Anthony Weiner’s resignation after his own sex scandal in June). The long wait in the packed crowd and their hunger for salacious headlines meant the reporters were far too on edge to be amused by Mr. Bronk’s antics.
“Come on Benjy!” someone yelled.
“Just listen,” Mr. Bronk pleaded.
“No! Get out!” another reporter said.
“Maybe I’m the girl that was accused by Herman Cain OK?” Mr. Bronk said before cracking a few jokes and reciting a fake Haftorah.
Mr. Bronk was still behind the podium when Ms. Allred and Ms. Bialek made their entrance from a backroom.
“Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from Los Angeles, California, Ms. Gloria Allred and the accuser,” Mr. Bronk said.
Ms. Allred didn’t appreciate the introduction. She hustled Ms. Bialek back into the other room and informed the assembled reporters that she would not conduct her press conference with Mr. Bronk was present.
“I recognized him from a prior interaction at Congressman Weiner’s press conference and I made a decision I would not start a press conference about a serious issue with him there,” Ms. Allred explained to the Observer the following day.
Mr. Bronk eventually departed after Ms. Allred threatened to call security. After the press conference was over, Mr. Bronk told the Observer it was his best experience crashing a press conference yet because he did it all for love.
“This was probably my favorite because I did it for a real purpose; to impress Elisa Jordana. … She’s a singer that I’m real close with, hanging out with a lot,” Mr. Bronk said adding, ”I met her on JDate.”
Once she was sure the interloper was gone, Ms. Allred brought Ms. Bialek back out to meet the press. Ms. Bialek did not disappoint, she shared all the gory details of her alleged encounter with Mr. Cain.
“He suddenly reached over and put his hand on my leg, under my skirt and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch,” Ms. Bialek said.
The following day, Cain campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon emailed a statement to the Observer suggesting Ms. Allred and Ms. Bialek were motivated by a desire for publicity and potential payouts.
“Gloria Allred is a celebrity lawyer who specializes in generating publicity for herself and her clients,” Mr. Gordon wrote. “The questions the media should be asking are who’s paying for Gloria Allred’s fee, how did Ms. Bialek get introduced to Ms. Allred, and was she paid to come forward with these false accusations?”
Ms. Bialek claims a friend suggested she contact Ms. Allred after hearing her story.
“Her friend said she should get the best and that’s why she contacted me,” Ms. Allred told the Observer.
We asked Ms. Allred about her attraction to high profile sex scandals and she insisted her motivations were pure.
“What draws me to them … here’s the bottom line, women are meant to enjoy equal employment opportunity in the workplace and sexual harassment interferes with their enjoyment of equal employment opportunity,” Ms. Allred said. “If there are laws there for women’s protection and we don’t use them there’s no point having those laws.”
One day after the press conference, Google Trends, which has become the gold standard for measuring public interest by tracking the volume of internet searches, showed Mr. Cain was three times as searched as President Obama, his main Republican rival Mitt Romney, and even teen idol Justin Bieber. However, Mr. Cain’s buzz clearly wasn’t generated by his sex scandals. Mr. Cain’s current search volume approximately matches a peak he reached after the debates in mid-August before any harassment allegations were made against him. According to a mid-October report from the Pew Research’s Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, the meteoric rise in the polls that thrust Mr. Cain in the debate spotlight began in mid-August and coincided with an avalanche of positive press.
It’s easy to see why Mr. Cain is such catnip for reporters. The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO rose from rags, to riches, to a catchphrase heavy underdog campaign that’s poised to potentially upset the more established candidates. A sex scandal was really the only element of truly great political theater lacking from Mr. Cain’s narrative.