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Conservatives divided on Sharon Bialek accusations

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Conservatives are not rushing to defend businessman Herman Cain in the wake of a press conference in which Sharon Bialek — with celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred at her side — claimed that the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO made an unwanted, physical sexual advance on her in 1997.

Many are pointing out that there are numerous verifiable details in Bialek’s story and are reserving judgment until more reporting comes out. Few seem willing to dismiss her story completely.

Spencer Platt

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Sharon Bialek accuses Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of unwanted sexual contact.

The reaction is decidedly different from the outcry from conservatives that followed the initial reporting on allegations of sexual harassment against Cain.

A few did dismiss the accusations out of hand. “She’s lying,” said Adam Baldwin, an actor and frequent contributor to Andrew Breitbart’s Big Journalism site. “Not a credible performance.”

Numerous conservatives commented on Bialek’s hair and makeup, and the fact that she had hired Allred, a Democratic donor. Rush Limbaugh mocked her as a “blonde bombshell” with a funny name.

“There’s nothing here,” said Sean Hannity on his radio show. “The lady didn’t even work for the company.”

Talk show host Laura Ingraham said Bialek’s frequent mentions of her boyfriend were “convenient” and that Allred’s jokes had a “racial overtone.” Commenters on her Facebook page, where Ingraham asked, “[D]o you think there is something fishy about her story?” were largely dubious.

But a larger number of conservative pundits appear to be giving Bialek the benefit of the doubt — for now.

“Some will conclude that anyone who hires Allred as a lawyer is after publicity, and is not to be trusted,” wrote National Review’s Jim Geraghty. “But that’s a non sequitur; a truthful person can hire Allred as easily as a liar.”

Hot Air’s Michelle Malkin voiced some skepticism about Bialek’s history. “So Bialek is single with a teenage child, with no discernible means of income, and employing a top Democrat hit woman celebrity attorney.” Malkin also suggested that Bialek’s mannerisms — “she giggled. She talked about her new hairdo” — made her less credible. But, Malkin ultimately concluded: “I need to know more.”

Guy Benson of TownHall.com made a list of questions to be answered but called the accusations “disturbing” and said “Bialek did not come off as an embittered lefty, which bolsters her credibility.”

Wrote Washington Examiner columnist Philip Klein on Twitter: “No way of knowing exactly what happened. But accuser sounded credible. So that’s a problem for Cain.”

"While seeing Gloria Allred insert herself into another national scandal (her last client was a porn star) was disturbing, listening to Sharon Bialek's story of how she was dealt with by Herman Cain was even more shocking,” said  Penny Nance of conservative group Concerned Women for America. “Mr. Cain needs to address these new allegations head on.”

Breitbart’s Big Journalism site actually confirmed part of Bialek’s story — that she did attend Teacon 2011, a tea party event in Chicago where Cain spoke.

The question to be answered over the next few days is whether Bialek’s accusations represent a tipping point for conservative attitudes about Cain .

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