Cain vows to "set the record straight"

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks at the Defending the American Dream Summit, Nov. 4, 2011, in Washington. AP

ATLANTA - Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is vowing to "set the record straight" at a news conference one day after a fourth woman — and the first to reveal her identity — accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior a decade ago, the latest in a string of claims that have rocked his presidential campaign.

"There is not an ounce of truth to all these allegations" and the graphic account from Sharon Bialek is "totally fabricated," the Georgia businessman told late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.

Cain planned to address the latest furor Tuesday afternoon in Phoenix as he seeks to stem the fallout of a controversy stretching into its second week.

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"I'm going to talk about it," Cain said, adding "we are taking this head on" — a reversal from just days ago when told reporters he was done answering questions about the matter.

That was before Bialek went on national television (watch report at left) Monday and provided a name and a face to what had, until then, been at least three anonymous sexual harassment allegations against Cain. Bialek's accusations — that Cain groped her in a car after she asked for his help finding a job — spun his unorthodox campaign into an uncertain new territory.

An upstart in the presidential race, Cain shot to the top of public opinion polls and emerged, however temporarily, in surveys as the main conservative challenger to Mitt Romney. Tea party activists and conservatives unenthused with the former Massachusetts governor have flocked to Cain's tell-it-like-it-is style and self-styled outsider image in recent weeks.

There were, however, growing signs of unease in conservative circles as, one by one, a handful of women claimed Cain acted inappropriately toward them while the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.

"He deserves a fair chance. But that doesn't mean he gets a pass. These are not anonymous allegations anymore unfortunately," said New Hampshire conservative activist Jennifer Horn, who last week had condemned media coverage of the allegations against Cain. "He does need to take another step and answer a few more questions."

"Oh," exclaimed South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly said when told details from Bialek's news conference. He said character issues matter in a state where the last governor tearfully confessed an affair and the current governor faced unproven allegations from two men that she had affairs. "Our voters care about moral attitude," Connelly said. "Character does matter."

Still, Cain backers remained solidly behind the former pizza company executive. They pointed to the presence of Gloria Allred — a high-profile attorney with Democratic ties — alongside Bialek at a news conference on Monday in New York as proof that the latest claim was a partisan smear.

"The fact that she's involved removes all credibility," Georgia Christian Coalition president Jerry Luquire said. "If he says he didn't do anything than I believe him."

Bialek is the fourth woman to say that Cain engaged in inappropriate behavior during his time at the helm of the restaurant group.

At least two women who worked there at the time filed sexual harassment complaints.

A third woman told The Associated Press last week that she considered filing a workplace complaint against Cain over what she deemed sexually suggestive remarks and gestures that included a private invitation to his corporate apartment. And a former pollster for the restaurant association has said he witnessed yet another episode involving a different woman.

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