Gingrich: Cain owes woman and public explanation

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Joe Burbank, Pool) Joe Burbank

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
Joe Burbank

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Tuesday that fellow Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain owes the public and his most recent accuser, Sharon Bialek, an answer to her charges that he made an unwanted and aggressive sexual overture to her 14 years ago.

"I think when you move from anonymity to a person standing up in that setting, clearly Herman Cain has to answer the charges, he has to explain what happened. I think that's unavoidable," Gingrich said. "He both owes her that, but he also owes the American people that. ... He has to have an answer and it had better be accurate, because if it's not accurate, it won't survive 24 hours."

Gingrich's comments came during an interview with ABC News and Yahoo News. His appraisal of Cain's predicament was the most of pointed of the candidates interviewed by the two news organizations over the course of the day on Tuesday.

Minutes before Gingrich's interview, Cain appeared in his own online session with ABC and Yahooand denied even recognizing Bialek and said she is lying about the charges.

Gingrich also discussed his own campaign, recalling the group of aides who deserted him over the summer. "I brought in traditional consultants and it didn't work," Gingrich said of the group. "They wanted to run a traditional campaign."

The former House speaker, who led Republicans to a takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, said his challenge over the coming months will be to try to woo the 75- 80 percent of Republican voters who haven't committed to front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

If he succeeds, he said, "then Romney will have a problem stopping me, but I'm not worried about having a problem stopping Romney."

Weighing in on the Dodd-Frank law imposing new financial regulation, he blamed it for destroying community banks and the housing market. He said some reforms of the industry are necessary and that "pieces of Dodd-Frank are probably worth keeping." He also said that repealing the Glass-Steagall law, which separated commercial and investment banking, was "probably a mistake."

Asked whether the children of illegal immigrants should be allowed to attend public schools, Gingrich's response was an unequivocal "yes."

"If you have people in your community who are not getting any education, you're asking for a level of social destruction that's unbelievable," he said.

Watch the interview here:

  • Rebecca Kaplan On Twitter»

    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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