Sex Harassment Cloud Continues to Dog Cain, But Is He Damaged Goods?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 7, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Well, she says it happened. He said it did not. His campaign points out she's represented by high-profile Democratic Party donor celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred. Now, a former co-worker accuses Mr. Herman Cain. Now, this woman's not anonymous. She does identify herself.


SHARON BIALEK, CAIN ACCUSER: Instead of going into the offices, he suddenly reached over and he 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. I was very, very surprised and very shocked. I said, What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend. This isn't what I came here for. Mr. Cain said, You want a job, right?


VAN SUSTEREN: Sharon Bialek is the first woman to come forward accusing Mr. Herman Cain of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. Now, the other accusers have remained anonymous, making it impossible for anyone to determine if they're telling the truth or not.

Bialek worked with Mr. Cain at the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s, and today she spoke in public. Bialek described the alleged unwanted sexual advances, and Mr. Herman Cain's campaign says all the allegations are completely false.

Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume joins us. Nice to see you, Brit. And Brit, you know, we all know this is a "he says, she says," and if you like him, you think he's being falsely accused. If you don't like him, he's a rat.

BRIT HUME, FOX SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's true, but remember, he's starting out here at about 20 to 25 percent, maybe a little above that in some polls, of the Republican vote. He needs to expand that over time to win. This is the kind of thing that absolutely stops a candidate's momentum in its tracks. And having said at the last of the week, Mr. Cain did, that he's not going to say anything more about this, he's now back in the thick of it.

Tonight, his campaign is out with another statement saying that she's a woman with a history of financial difficulties, including personal bankruptcy, and so on. So he's back in the thick of this mess. And you know, it's hard for me to see this ending any time soon, and it's a real hailstorm for his campaign.

VAN SUSTEREN: I suppose, though, it's better it comes out now than, let's say, the end of December, right?

HUME: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: On the eve of the Iowa caucuses.

HUME: Well, we're getting pretty close to that now. And my sense about this is, you know, if he were Bill Clinton in the Democratic Party, these kinds of allegations, which were certainly made by the famous Gennifer Flowers against Bill Clinton, although not in quite the same terms, he might survive it. But in the Republican Party, I think Republicans are more censorious of this kind of thing than the Democrats are. And it's hard for me to see how he gets past this.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I hate allegations like this because, number one, sexual harassment or unwanted touching is just dead wrong. On the other hand, it's very easy to accuse someone. And if you are not guilty, there's not much you can do except say, I didn't do it.

HUME: Well, I think, you know, as we've talked about, Greta, in terms of law, this stuff doesn't amount to much. But in the court of politics, it's a different atmosphere. And you know, if reasonable doubt can be raised against the person being accused, that's enough in the court of politics and public opinion to do real damage. And my sense about this is that this man is seriously damaged now, and this compounds it.

And look, people think -- a lot of people think Gloria Allred is an odious character, and I understand that. And a lot of people who would be sympathetic to Cain would think that. But you still have that woman and you still have those words that you just played on the air. You string those three sentences together, it's pretty damning.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I imagine that we're going to hear a lot more about her, the good, the bad and the indifferent in the next couple days. And I assume that -- I mean, I know that she's had a personal bankruptcy. It doesn't mean he can't harass her.

HUME: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: But we're going to hear some things. And again, I go back to, like, people taking sides on this. And if she has got enough sort of baggage herself unrelated to this, that that will somehow inure perhaps to benefit to him. It should be irrelevant, but this stuff does matter.

HUME: Well, it also raises this question, Greta. Even if you doubt these allegations, even if you think they're nonsense, you think they're a political conspiracy against him that's been mounted unfairly, you also have to ask yourself this question, if you're a potential Republican voter, and that is, is this a person who is subject to this kind of thing and handles it as clumsily as his campaign handled it last week with his shifting stories and so on -- is this the person we want to send out into the arena against President Obama?

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't -- is there a certain way you're supposed to handle it? Because I've been trying to think of it. You know, if you don't know who it is -- and a lot of these are anonymous, although I guess Politico supplied one name -- is you...

HUME: Well, he knew, though, about the settlements that were made. He knew about at least one of them.

VAN SUSTEREN: He knew one. He knew one.

HUME: He knew one.


HUME: And you hear what he -- you know, he was saying how, you know, they knew weeks ahead of time that this story was being worked on. Well, in a situation like that, any sensible politician sits down with his aides and he says, All right, this could be coming, what's the worst that could happen, how do we plan for it, what do we say, how do we handle this. There was really little evidence that any of that happened. And that's a sign of a newcomer to presidential politics.

VAN SUSTEREN: What should -- what would a politician, a more seasoned politician (INAUDIBLE)

HUME: Well, he certainly -- well, the first thing you do is you get your story straight. And you -- you develop whatever the facts were, those you can recall and those you can find out by turning to others, and you get the story straight. And then you have -- and then you develop something to say. There's very little evidence that the Cain campaign tried to do any of that.

VAN SUSTEREN: It almost -- I mean, I don't think they -- I get the sense that they didn't think that it was a real claim or a real stab at the campaign.

HUME: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think they realized the significance of it. I mean, that's just my guess. I have no idea.

HUME: Well, if that's true, that wasn't a good judgment.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, that definitely was not. So now how do we sort of judge whether this really -- you know (INAUDIBLE) a chink in the armor? We have the poll today, but that doesn't take into consideration the events of today. I'm sure there'll be a poll in the next few days. Should we see those polls as instructive as to whether or not this is a blow that is going to have some pain (INAUDIBLE)

HUME: I think there's been a certain rallying around him in the early polls here. There may be a little of that yet to come. But I think in time, this is -- this will erode his support unquestionably.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's interesting that so many people don't like Gloria Allred, and so it's, like, funny. It's, like, you know, people take sides in this, so all the sort of Gloria Allred people are sending me e-mails complaining about Gloria Allred and not...

HUME: Well, that comment she made in the news conference today about how, you know, he had given her his version of the stimulus package. I mean, how cheesy is that? I mean, it was repellent! And yet -- and yet -- I think and yet damaging.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I think Gloria -- Gloria's never been accused of being -- as being full of good taste. She's a tough lawyer, I will say that. But you know, she has -- she certainly has offended many. Anyway, Brit, thank you.

HUME: Thank you, Greta.