In a Manhattan press conference this afternoon, Sharon Bialek did several things:
1) Put a name and a face to the biggest story yet of Campaign 2012;
2) Articulated a horrifying allegation of an unwanted sexual advance — perhaps even assault — from Herman Cain;
3) Furthered the legend of Gloria Allred, her attorney in this matter.
The media will latch onto the salacious details of the case — how Bialek alleges that Cain grabbed her head and pulled it toward his crotch when she was in Washington to seek help with a job search. Bialek noted that she had a boyfriend. Cain allegedly responded, “You want a job, right?”
Questions surrounding that alleged exchange will dog the Cain campaign until there is no longer a Cain campaign.
For media nerds, the more critical moment of this news conference came when Bialek addressed her motivations in coming forward.
After detailing her history with Cain, she said she had put her story in the public realm on behalf of sexually harassed women who “do not come out on fear of . . . humiliation.”
Gathering steam, Bialek said, “I want you, Mr. Cain, to come clean. Admit what you did.”
Bialek’s stunning appearance and her inclusion in this story never would have come about but for the publicity generated by the original Politico report. The chain of causality is now plain for everyone to see:
1) Politico publishes explosive allegations;
2) Cain, practicing damage control, denies the allegations, saying they are baseless;
3) At least one accuser toys with going public before deciding not to;
4) A woman (Bialek) who was never part of the original story and who wasn’t even under Cain’s management comes forth with details on how she was treated by Cain. She does this because she notes the hesitancy of others to come forward.
Politico reporters could have tooled away on this story for two or three more months — in silence — and never found Bialek. Only the heat of nonstop coverage from cable TV, network TV, print, and web outlets could have brought her to the podium. And that’s what happened. That very heat is helping to more fully bake the story.