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updated 11/9/2011 4:18:51 PM ET 2011-11-09T21:18:51

Byline: Chris Matthews, Eugene Robinson, David Gregory, Howard Fineman>
Guests: Cynthia Tucker, Dana Milbank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Let me go to Gene Robinson on this. Gene, it seems
to me that it`s going to be a "He said, she said" situation within a matter
of minutes now. And the question is, how does he believe that he can
simply say, as he said, apparently, today, I don`t remember any of it, I
don`t remember her as a human being?

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t -- I
don`t -- see, the problem, Chris, is that it`s not just "He said, she
said," it`s "He said, they said," and -- as you now have several women who
have made allegations of sexual harassment, apparently not going as far as
Ms. Bialek`s accusations of physical touching in a very inappropriate way.

Nonetheless, one of the accusers with whom there`s a settlement is now
slowly coming out publicly and says she might talk about this some more.
He really has to deal with the totality of this behavior and try to
convince people -- and I`ll use a colloquialism here, but that he doesn`t
act like a pig with women.

MATTHEWS: Yes. But can he just say today, I`m only going to address
people by name unless a person makes a charge in public, I`m not going to
dignify the charge until they come forward, in other words, just pick his
target today and say, Sharon Bialek is my accuser, I`m only going to deal
with her?

ROBINSON: He can try, but I think the larger issue is there. The larger
question is there. And I don`t see how he can expect to get back on track
until he answers it.

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, if he goes to war with this government -- basically,
the star witness against him now, Sharon Bialek, does this become an issue
where he has to almost discredit her as a person to win his presumed
innocence back?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Well, he`s already started trying to
discredit her. What else can he do? If he denies that this happened, then
he`s calling her a liar. So he has to try to destroy her credibility if he
wants people to believe that a woman would stand before the cameras, give a
very detailed account of behavior that in my view goes beyond sexual
harassment -- what Bialek alleged was sexual assault...

MATTHEWS: That`s what I agree.

TUCKER: ... or sexual battery. If he is to deny that that took place,
then he has no choice but to try to destroy her credibility. If -- you
know, I was skeptical about her when I heard that she would be appearing
with Gloria Allred, for heaven`s sakes, who never saw a camera that she
didn`t want to address. But Bialek seemed very credible to me.

And if it`s true that she doesn`t want any money, she`s not suing anybody,
that she`s not trying to sell her story -- if that`s true, she`s even more
credible. So Herman Cain has no choice, really, than to try to talk about
her as somebody who`s irresponsible, who`s been a party to several lawsuits
in the past.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Hey, Chris, can I make another
point? It`s David here.

MATTHEWS: Sure, David.

GREGORY: This is a fragile front-runner. This is not a durable candidate
in the race for the presidency. This is someone who`s capitalized on Tea
Party support, anti-establishment support, who has somehow risen to the top
of the pack because conservatives have problems with Mitt Romney, and is
now being so completely derailed, getting away from talking about the very
thing that got him attention, which was his tax plan, and all of his anti-
establishment views. It`s obscuring the fact that there were other
deficiencies like foreign policy acumen or even basic knowledge.

MATTHEWS: I understand that. But where do they go? Where do the anti-
Romney people go? You mentioned on Sunday when I was on "MEET THE PRESS"
with you -- and thank you for that -- it seemed to be that you used a very
good phrase. You said they tend to be doubling down on this guy now,
David. So where does that leave the people who just can`t see Romney, they
see him as a moderate?

GREGORY: Well, I`ve talked to other people in the race who are of the view
that they don`t attack Cain, but they wait for his supporters to
reluctantly come to the view that he`s unelectable. So they wait him out.
They don`t attack him because that`s not going to be looked upon favorably
here.

The reality is, look who`s third in our poll. It`s Newt Gingrich. I don`t
know whether Michele Bachmann catches fire, but Rick Perry at least has the
money, even though he had a poor showing in our poll, to climb back into
this race as an anti-Romney candidate.

But if Herman Cain -- I mean, you heard Haley Barbour on the program
Sunday, Bill Bennett saying, you know, Look, we can`t blame the media when
we led the charge against Bill Clinton for sexual impropriety, he`s got to
answer these questions, he`s got to come clean about all of this. These
are the challenges he faces.

MATTHEWS: OK, here is Herman Cain. And this is going to be a very
dramatic press conference.

LIN WOOD, CAIN`S ATTORNEY: ... for Herman Cain. I`ve been practicing law
in Georgia for a little over 34 years, and I have had the opportunity in my
practice of law to represent female victims of sexual harassment. Serious,
legitimate claims of sexual harassment are not settled for nuisance value.

I have also had the opportunity in my law practice to represent victims of
sexual assault. When they have come to my law office, I did not take them
out and parade them in front of the cameras in a national press conference,
and then arrange for them to go on a campaign with the media to give one
interview after another after another. They resolved their claims in a
court of law.

I have also had the privilege to represent a number of innocent victims
accused by the media of serious crimes, false accusations, where those
individuals found themselves on trial in the court of public opinion -- on
trial in the court of public opinion, where there are no rules. The rules
are made up by the media. There are no procedures designed to safeguard
the integrity of the process, to ensure that a fair and a just result is
achieved.

Herman Cain finds himself over the course of the last several days now on
trial in the court of public opinion, falsely accused, first by anonymous
sources and now yesterday by Sharon Bialek, who chose to come forward for
whatever reason after 14 years, when recollections have faded, witnesses
cannot be located, to for the first time -- for the first time in 14 years
-- to tell her story to a third person -- for the first time.

And now Herman Cain in the court of public opinion has to respond not to
admissible evidence, he has to respond to hearsay. He has to respond to
rumors and speculation. He`s not afforded the opportunity for me to cross-
examine his accusers. He`s not afforded the safeguards that are part of
our system of justice.

But he comes before you today to defend his reputation, a reputation that
he has built over 40 years of being a good and decent man and a successful
businessperson. I ask that you at least afford him fairness and that you
view his efforts to defend his reputation and his good name by maintaining
your common sense and remembering your own life`s experience to decide
whether or not a story that is so inherently improbable on its face should
be utilized by others with their own agendas to attack this man`s
reputation.

It`s my privilege to represent him and my privilege to step aside from this
podium and let you hear from him, Herman Cain.

HERMAN CAIN (R-GA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Lin. Good
afternoon. I am Herman Cain, and I`m running for president of the United
States of America.

I normally don`t have notes, but in this case, I wanted to make sure that I
didn`t miss any points that I needed to cover today. Secondly, I chose to
address these accusations directly, rather than try to do it through a
series of continuous statements or spokespeople because that`s the person
Herman Cain is, is to take my message directly to the people.

With respect to the most recent accusation, I have never acted
inappropriately with anyone, period! I saw Ms. Allred and her client
yesterday in that news conference for the very first time. As I sat in my
hotel room with a couple of my staff members, as they got to the
microphone, my first response in my mind and reaction was, I don`t even
know who this woman is. Secondly, I didn`t recognize the name at all.

The time that she referenced was during the time that I was the CEO and
president of the National Restaurant Association. It`s headquartered in
Washington, D.C., where about 150 workers work, and we have about 150
people in Chicago, where she said she worked for our educational
foundation. I tried to remember if I recognized her, and I didn`t. I
tried to remember if I remembered that name, and I didn`t.

The charges and the accusations I absolutely reject. They simply didn`t
happen. They simply did not happen.

You know, for decades, the American people have wanted a businessman in the
White House, and not just another politician, because for decades, all that
the politicians have been doing is just kicking the can down the road, trim
a little bit here, trim a little bit there when America`s biggest problems
simply got worse.

Well, a businessman by the name of Herman Cain stepped forward. Here I am.
But I know from the American people that I have talked with and I have
spoken with over the past several months, we are not going to allow
Washington or politics to deny me the opportunity to represent this great
nation.

And as far as these accusations causing me to back off and maybe withdraw
from this presidential primary race -- ain`t going to happen because I`m
doing this for the American people and for their children and for their
grandchildren, and I will not be deterred by false, anonymous, incorrect
accusations.

America believes that Washington is broken. America believes that our
system of getting elected is broken. In part, it is. But in another part,
it`s not. As long as we have decency and honesty in the electoral process,
it will work. But when we allow deceit and false accusations to rule the
day and distract us, that part is broken.

Nine days ago, the media started to beat me up covering anonymous accusers,
and then yesterday, another accuser came forth, identified herself, went on
TV, and made some other allegations. Was it tough last week? Yes. Has it
been tough the last couple of days? Yes.

But you see, that`s one thing about Herman Cain that I think that a lot of
the American people know, and that is, just because it`s tough, there`s no
reason for me not to do what I feel like I have to do. And because of what
the American people have said to me during these turbulent times, we will
get through this. We will get through this.

The fact is, these anonymous allegations are false, and now the Democrat
machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman to make false
accusations, statements, many of which exceed common sense, and they
certainly exceed the standards of decency in America.

I have been married for 43 years to my wife, Gloria -- 43 years I`ve been
married to my wife. After watching that press conference yesterday, I
called her and I said, Sweetheart, did you see it? She said, Yes. I said,
What did you think? And my wife said, and this is a direct quote, "I have
known you for 46 years," because we were engaged for two years, "that
doesn`t even sound like anything that you would ever do to anyone."

Sexual harassment allegations are serious. And respect for women and all
people that I have worked with or people that have worked for me over the
years has been a top priority with respect to me.

Now, my family fully supports my candidacy, and they know the man that I
am. They`ve been with me all of their lives, my kids. They know who I am.
They know the man that I am. However, I ask that the media not drag my
family into this. They`re not running for president. Some members of your
profession have even stalked my family members, calling members of my
family and extended family members. I ask you as professionals to direct
your questions, your criticisms toward me, not my family.

My reputation is something that I`ve worked over 40 years to build up. I
have managed many entities, many companies. I have managed organizations
with thousands and thousands and thousands of employees. And now that I`m
running for the highest office in the land (SOUND DROP) some anonymous,
some not so anonymous, are now coming to light. This is not a surprise.
It was expected.

But I will vigorously defend my reputation because I will not allow false
accusations to compromise or in any way shed badly on my character and my
integrity. And this is why I`ve decided to address these issues directly
and forthrightly.

I will repeat, I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period. And
these accusations that were revealed yesterday simply did not happen.

We are going to take some questions. J.D. Gordon, my communications vice
president -- we will take a few questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you ask your question, please state your name and
your media agency, please.

CAIN: And please use the microphone.

QUESTION: Mr. Cain, Steve Fudderman (ph) with CBS News. I`d like to ask
you a two-part question. First of all, do you think it is appropriate for
a candidate`s character to come under a microscope in a campaign?

And secondly, you are basically now in a "He said, she said" situation.
She`s saying something, you`re saying something. They`re both
diametrically opposing each other. As distasteful as it might be, would
you be willing to do a lie-detector test to prove your honesty in something
like this...

CAIN: Yes.

QUESTION: ... even though I`m sure -- oh, go ahead.

CAIN: Yes. I absolutely would. But I`m not going to do that unless I
have a good reason to do that. That was one of the first comments that I
made in watching this, to my staff. I`ve also shared that with my
attorney. Of course I would be willing to do a lie-detector test.

Secondly, I believe that the candidate and character and integrity of a
candidate running for president should come under a microscope, with facts,
not accusations.

QUESTION: Tim Gainer (ph), Reuters News Agency.

Mr. Cain, an Ipsos/Reuters poll released this afternoon showed that 40
percent of Republican voters view you less favorably after seeing Monday`s
accusations from Sharon Bialek.

Given that reaction, how can you convince non-supporters to vote for
you?

CAIN: Well, first of all, you don`t need 100 percent of the voters.
You need 51 percent.

It is natural that some voters would be turned off by the mere mention
of the accusations. That`s normal and that`s expected. And all you have
to do is to look at campaigns historically, and you are able to identify
those situations where some members of the public, some of the voting
electorate are going to be influenced by the court of public opinion in
formulating their impression.

But the good news for me and my campaign is that most of my supporters
have not reacted to this in terms of belief. Many of them have expressed
their outpouring support for the fact that these incidents simply did not
happen. So rebuilding the trust on the part of some people, yes, that
would be a challenge.

But I want to continue to represent those that have chose to support
me and those that are willing to look at the facts, and not hearsay.

QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Cain. It`s Robin Abcarian from "The L.A. Times."

Yesterday, you called these charges insignificant stuff. I think
everyone who`s ever worked in a restaurant environment knows that sexual
harassment can be very commonplace. My question to you is, do you believe
sexual harassment is real? Have you ever seen it? What did you see? And
how did you deal with it?

CAIN: Let me reiterate that sexual harassment is a very serious
charge.

In no way have I tried to minimize sexual harassment in the workplace.
Having led many organizations, yes, I have seen instances where it could be
interpreted as sexual harassment. And if I saw it, and if it were an
employee or a direct report of mine, I dealt with it immediately, before
the other person perceived it as an infringement of their privacy.

And I might add, it`s not just men who potentially sexually harass
women. I have always seen situations where women have sexually --
attempted to sexually harass men. It`s very serious. And I have made sure
that that wasn`t something that was tolerated in any organization that I
was responsible for.

QUESTION: Jonathan Karl with ABC News.

CAIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. Cain, now another woman, one of the formerly anonymous
women, has come forward who worked with you at the Restaurant Association,
Karen Kraushaar. She`s now a spokesperson for the Treasury Department and
has come forward publicly.

What do you say to her and -- and -- or her allegations? This is
somebody who is still working in the U.S. government. Are her allegations
not true? Is she lying about them?

CAIN: Well, to the best of my recollection, since you mentioned that
particular name, that is the one that I recall that filed a complaint, but
it was found to be baseless.

Let`s separate something. The accusations were made of sexual
harassment. They were found baseless. There was no legal settlement.
There was an agreement between that lady and the National Restaurant
Association, and it was treated as a personnel matter because there was no
basis to her accusations. Those are the facts.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CAIN: When she made her -- when she made her accusations, they were
found to be baseless and she could not find anyone to corroborate her
story. The Restaurant Association handled it. They went through a process
to get to the point where it ended up being an agreement, not a settlement.

Now, let me clarify that little point. I have been criticized by some
members of the media that I have changed my story. When the firestorm
started a week ago Monday, I was presented with the accusation of some
settlement was made.

Settlement, to me, means that there were legal implications. Later,
during that same day, I then recalled, after all those years, that there
was an agreement. That`s what businesses sign with employees who are
departing the company. They call it an agreement. Settlement implies
legal implications. All of the potential legal implications or
ramifications or accusations were found to be baseless.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) "Wall Street Journal."

Still, Mr. Cain, there are now a total of four women who have accused
you of some form of sexual harassment. How do you explain that? Are they
making it up? Is that plausible? Can you explain how -- where you think
this is coming from? Thank you.

CAIN: Well, I happen to think where it`s coming from is that some
people don`t want to see Herman Cain get the Republican nomination, and
some people don`t want Herman Cain to become president of the United States
of America.

As you know, when you run for the highest office in the land, there
are going to be some accusations that are going to come out of the
woodwork. They`re going to come from anywhere. And I have said this
before. There will probably be others, not because I am aware of any, but
because the machine to keep a businessman out of the White House is going
to be relentless.

And if they continue to come, I will continue to respond. I can`t
answer why the ones that have already made these one anonymous accusations
and one that was, you know -- you know, put their face on TV, started a
media campaign to basically try and slander my integrity and my character,
I can`t tell you what their motivation is, other than it`s to stop Herman
Cain.

I believe that the American people are saying that they`re not going
to let that happen.

QUESTION: Steve Krafft, FOX 10 News here in Phoenix.

Mitt Romney has been quoted as saying he finds these accusations to be
disturbing. Can you react to that observation by Mr. Romney and tell us
what you think is behind it or what it means?

CAIN: Sure.

Sexual harassment is a very serious matter, as I have said. I find
the accusations disturbing, but false. I don`t believe Governor Romney was
saying that he thought I was guilty of any of these accusations. But, yes,
they`re disturbing, because they distract (AUDIO GAP) from taking our
message to the American people, talking about solutions. They distract
from the whole Republican primary process.

So he`s right. But I don`t think he was saying that I was disturbing
because I have been accused. I believe that he was saying, because I know
Mitt Romney and his integrity, that he was referring to the fact that it`s
disturbing that these accusations -- accusations that are not factually
based are disturbing to this process.

QUESTION: Mr. Cain, Lee Ross with FOX News.

You made several mentions of the machine, the Democratic machine. Who
are these people? Who is involved in this? Is it a conspiracy?

CAIN: I cannot -- I cannot say that it is a conspiracy.

We do not have definitive factual proof. We can only look at some
coincidences to suggest it, that maybe someone is deliberately behind this.
So we have not been able to make any determination, to point any fingers,
or place any blame on anybody at this point.

When we step back and look at the fact that there`s no facts, no
factual evidence to back these up, we can only infer that someone is trying
to basically wreck my character and, like the other gentleman alluded to,
plant doubt in the minds of a lot of the people who are going to go to the
polls and vote.

QUESTION: Mr. Cain, Andrew Rafferty, NBC News.

I`m just curious, what role do you think Sharon Bialek`s past
financial troubles play in her allegations against you?

CAIN: She claims that her past financial situation, the number of
civil lawsuits she`s been involved in, she claims that it does not play a
role in her coming forward.

I can`t respond any further than that. That`s her claim. But from a
commonsense standpoint, one would have to ask if, in fact, that might not
have been a motivation for her being subjected to this.

QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Cain, Tracy (OFF-MIKE) with CNN.

CAIN: Hello.

QUESTION: In terms of the other case that was found baseless from
that accuser, who found it to be baseless? And, if so, why was she paid
tens of thousands of dollars?

CAIN: Well, I`m not sure of the tens of thousands of dollars figure
that you`re referring to, so I`m not going to get caught in that trap.

It was negotiations between -- I`m only referring to the one lady that
actually filed charges. OK? That`s the only one I can respond to. She
got an attorney and she and her attorney negotiated and talked with the
attorney for the National Restaurant Association.

I can`t even remember if we got outside counsel in this case. I think
we probably did. So it was a situation where they worked back and forth,
and they came to the conclusion that it should end with some sort of
personnel separation agreement.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CAIN: She worked at the Restaurant Association for a period of time.

I do recall that before I left the Restaurant Association, she was in
the process of leaving the association. I didn`t have regular interaction,
although, periodically, I would see her. And since she reported to my vice
president -- one of my vice presidents, when we would have a planning
meeting, she would attend the planning meeting, because, typically, when I
would do a planning meeting, I would not only bring in my direct reports.
I would bring in the next level down.

She was at that next level down. So that was the interaction, in
terms of me seeing her on a regular basis. In -- during that particular
period in the time, because I was the president of the National Restaurant
Association -- today, it has over 14 million people working in the
industry, you know, thousands and thousands and thousands of restaurants --
I spent most of my time traveling and giving speeches around the country to
state restaurant associations, as well as other speeches that I needed to
give. I was not in the office a lot. I was out in the field more than I
was in the office.

QUESTION: Mr. Cain, hi, Lindsey Boerma with CBS News and "National
Journal."

You have said again today that it`s been so many years and you later
recalled that there was a financial agreement that you didn`t originally
remember. Now you say you don`t remember Sharon Bialek, that yesterday was
the first time that you have seen her. Is there a possibility that it`s
just been too many years and that you could recall some specific details
later?

CAIN: That`s a possibility, but I think it`s a remote possibility,
you know? I`m not an expert on how the brain works, but I do know that I
sat there and went over and over and over and over in my mind, do I know
this lady? The answer kept coming up, no.

I watched her again today when she appeared on FOX News with her
attorney during this interview, sitting there, trying to remember, do I
know her? I didn`t recognize the face. I didn`t recognize the name, nor
the voice.

And so you`re right. Is that a possibility? Yes. But I happen to
think that`s a remote possibility. And here`s why. One of the things that
people who have worked with me for years will tell you is that I`m pretty
good at remembering people, especially people that have had a positive
impact in my life or a positive impact on my business. I`m pretty good at
remembering people that I have met who have made some sort of impression on
me.

So in this particular case -- in this particular case, I seriously
doubt if I`m going to have an aha moment later and say, oh, yes, I remember
that. I just don`t think that`s going to happen.

QUESTION: Mr. Cain, Marc Lacey with "The New York Times."

Karen Kraushaar, who just spoke to our newspaper within the last hour,
can you tell us what she accused you of specifically and what your
interactions with her were? You came close to answering that, but you
stopped. This is your press conference where you`re going to level with us
and tell us what happened. So tell us what she accused you of and tell us
what really happened. This is your chance. Thank you.

CAIN: Well, I can only recall one thing that I was aware of that was
called sexual harassment.

The one thing that I remember -- that I remembered during the day when
all of this broke loose -- is that one day, in my office at the National
Restaurant Association, I was standing next to Miss Kraushaar, and I
gestured, standing near her, like this, "You`re the same height as my
wife," because my wife comes up to my chin.

That was the one gesture that I remember. The door was open. My
secretary was sitting there. It wasn`t anything behind closed doors. I
gestured because of her height, comparing it to my wife`s height. End of
story.

Other things that might have been in the accusations, I`m not even
aware of, I don`t remember. That one, I remember, because that was the one
that my general counsel came to me and said, the one that appears to be the
one that she was most upset about was that. So I really can`t tell you
anymore, because I don`t recall it anymore, and that`s the only one I
remember.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CAIN: She did not react at the time, absolutely did not react at the
time.

Let me say this, folks, in closing. Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for us having an opportunity to share my perspective on this.

This nation faces tremendous crises. I would hope that we could get
back to sharing with the American people solutions to the problems that we
face. We`re not going to allow ourselves to continuously be distracted by
these sort of incidents.

I will respond to them, but we cannot slow this campaign down when we
need to be dealing with our economic crisis, our spending crisis, our
energy crisis, our foggy foreign policy crisis, illegal immigration crisis,
and a crisis of leadership in the White House in Washington, D.C.

That`s what I`m going to continue to focus on, on behalf of the
American people, not for me, but for the grandkids. Thank you all very
much for your attendance.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in our panel right now, NBC`s David Gregory,
the moderator of "Meet the Press." Eugene Robinson is a columnist for "The
Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst. Cynthia Tucker is a
political columnist and currently a visiting professor at the University of
Georgia. MSNBC political analyst and The Huffington Post`s Howard Fineman
joins us now, and "The Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank.

I should say at the beginning here, gentlemen and ladies, that the man
who joined us earlier tonight in introducing Herman Cain was Lin Wood,
who`s an attorney, a very prominent one, based down in Atlanta. He has
represented former Congressman Gary Condit. He`s defended the woman in the
Kobe Bryant case, the notorious case involving that, and of course he`s
also represented Richard Jewell, the security guard falsely accused of
planting a bomb down at the `96 -- 1996 Olympics down in Atlanta.

Let`s start with David, David Gregory.

I guess the key line is, "I don`t even know who this woman is,"
remains at the heart of this story. Either he`s telling the truth with his
memory as it is or she`s telling the truth. It seems to me hard to believe
-- well, let`s leave it open to you, this open question now. Who`s telling
the truth?

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Well, you raised this
before we had the press conference. She`s made an accusation. He`s denied
it, denied even knowing her, said he`s never acted inappropriately, said
that previous accusations against him that were the basis of an agreement
or a settlement with the National Restaurant Association had no merit, had
no basis.

Sexual harassment is a very difficult thing to prove. I mean, you
talk about witnesses. It`s not like this is often done with a committee
around you. And that`s part of the problem here.

But I think what`s striking about this, Chris, is that, and that`s
pretty striking in and of itself. But he went beyond that. I mean, he is
now, after first blaming the Perry campaign for leaking this, then blaming
the media for somehow being involved in a witch-hunt, now he`s accusing the
Democratic machine of bringing forth a troubled woman -- his words -- to
make false accusations against him.

And as he`s done in other instances, whether it was talking about
people involved in Occupy Wall Street, he doesn`t have any facts to back
that up. But that`s part of the overall storyline, the narrative that he
wants Americans to accept.

MATTHEWS: Gene, he also began to plant a bit of a narrative there,
reminding us -- I didn`t even know about this -- that this woman, Sharon
Bialek, who is the woman who`s accused him of really gross, you could even
call it sexual assault, in the car that day, apparently, the way she
describes it, he mentioned the fact that she had other civil suits and the
fact that she had financial problems and suggested that may well have
contributed to her accusation.

I mean, he`s basically impeaching her as a witness here, but, again,
the troubled woman, as David said, calling her a troubled woman, really
impeaching her, as if he`s an attorney in a courtroom.

And I go back to this denial. It`s so total. "I don`t even know who
this woman is."

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. That -- that had
better be true.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: Because, if it`s not, somebody`s going to come up with a
picture of him and her, or somebody`s going to remember an interaction
between him and her, and there you`re going to have it.

Calling her a troubled woman, I think, was, you know, my personal
opinion, ill-advised. I don`t think he had to go there.

As far as this being some sort of Democrat -- Democrat -- Democratic
Party conspiracy, most professionals in the Democratic Party I know would
love for Herman Cain to be the nominee of the Republican Party...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That`s fair enough.

ROBINSON: ... and are probably trying to squelch this story. And
there was a question that he didn`t answer. He kind of pointedly didn`t
answer about the accuser with whom there`s a settlement, with the National
Restaurant Association, Ms. Kraushaar. He said that her complaint was
found baseless. And he was asked, by whom? What are these findings? Who
see these findings?

He just -- that just blew right past him. He would not engage with
that question. It`s going to be asked again.

MATTHEWS: Well, "The New York Times" --

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: By the way, Chris --

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

GREGORY: I mean, he said he didn`t recall -- I mean, he could have
found out. I mean, that`s a knowable fact, when it was the basis of an
agreement and what was -- he could have gone back and been able to answer
Marc Lacey`s questions from "The Times," which was, well, OK, what
happened? You know, what was your version? And what did they actually
conclude, to the point that they gave her some kind of financial statement?

MATTHEWS: Yes. And the fact is, David, and everyone else, Karen
Kraushaar, according to "The New York Times," Jim Rutenberg and Michael
Shear, reporting late today, she is going to go public fairly soon,
herself, like this -- the other witness here.

Let me go to Cynthia on this one.

Cynthia, we all heard the same thing, and this is classic. I`m not
denigrating him, but he is interesting to try to keep track of, Herman
Cain. Did he or did he not admit or agree to taking a lie detector test?
It`s hard to parse his sentence.

CYNTHIA TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Excellent question! It`s
much like the answer he gave not long ago on abortion. Where he said he`s
pro-life, but it`s up to the individual. At first he said, I would
absolutely take a lie detector test!

And then he said, only if there were a good reason for me to do so.
Well, I can`t imagine that there would be a better reason for him to do so
than now.

Let me also say that I was struck by the tone of his response. I was
expecting a much more pointed, perhaps more emotional complete denial of
these charges from a man who says he`s innocent. I`m thinking of men I
know. If they were charged -- if a woman came forward in the middle of a
presidential campaign, a woman they had never seen before, never laid hands
on, and made charges that are very damaging and very troubling, it seems to
me that most men I know would have a response that was much more pointed,
that said, I absolutely did nothing of the sort!

And his response -- he said he didn`t do it. But it was a more muted
emotional response than I expected from him.

I also have to say that David is absolutely right. If he wanted to
put these charges to rest, he would go to the National Restaurant
Association and say, let me see the files so that I can have a
comprehensive response to all the questions. And he hasn`t done that.

GREGORY: And can I add -- one more thing, Chris. The important
thing about Ms. Kraushaar is she`s actually now talking about going forward
because she thinks it`s important to present a front, to have several women
and what she called in "The Times" piece, a body of evidence, that could
stand up to what he`s saying.

I mean, that`s very interesting and I think will have some people
weighing this very carefully. What he`s saying, what they`re saying. But
the idea that there would be several of them that would be willing, in a
couple of cases, to no longer be anonymous, despite initially wanting to
before their name was leaked to the press, to present some consistent
stories.

MATTHEWS: Howard, let me ask you about the political context and
which direction. We know this is going to continue to be a Perry Mason
kind of detective story, what actually happened in these cases. That`s one
of the stories here, the political direction of the story.

He seems to have a confidence beyond anything I`ve seen in politics.
If he even has a smidgen of guilt in these cases, he doesn`t show it. If
he even has a smidgen of embarrassment, he doesn`t show it. He comes off
with the confidence of man who is absolutely innocent of any offense in any
time in his life. He is a perfect man, as he describes it.

Now, this self-confidence, how far will it carry him with the portion
of the Republican Party he very clearly today stated he was interested in.
He doesn`t care about the doubting Thomases. He wants the true believers.

Can he hold them?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let me make a legal
comment. Lynn Wood who represented and introduced him there is famous for
attacking the media, for threatening lawsuits, for threatening libel suits,
for threatening the media with reckless disregard of the truth.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: He was the dog that didn`t bark today. Yes, he introduced
Herman Cain, but he made no threats.

So, yes, Herman Cain thinks he can do it based on his personality. I
think you have to look at it state by state. In Iowa, at some point,
evangelical Christians who are key in that state where he`s running neck
and neck with Mitt Romney may ask questions, especially after actual people
came forward, women came forward, and it wasn`t just a matter of the media
attacking Herman Cain.

In the South, if he gets that far, there are a lot of people who
might have been willing to vote for Herman Cain, in the Bible belt of the
South. But he had to be without reproach. If he can prove it, fine. But
there are an awful lot of questions being asked here.

And even though the overall numbers in the horse race, Chris, have
not changed after this minute, now`s when we have to start looking at it
state by state. This could eventually hurt him among conservative cultural
voters in Iowa, South Carolina, and across the South on Super Tuesday.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Dana Milbank on this. I guess the question
now is the personality of this fellow. I`m going back to that question. I
watched this man now, as we all did, for a half hour here defend himself,
as if he were Billy Budd, some perfectly innocent character out of
literature.

Without any smidgen of embarrassment, the fact that as one of the
reporters said, why would four women come out? Why is there so much of
this testimony against you? It didn`t bother him. The man is so self-
confident.

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I think the most revealing
line in this whole thing is when he said, "I have never behaved
inappropriately with anyone." I mean, who among us can say that? It had
almost a megalomaniacal feel to it and that can help you explain. So, if
his standard of sexual harassment is different from everybody else`s, by
his standard, he never did anything even if perhaps the reasonable person
would feel otherwise.

And he was also, I think, very revealing in saying he doesn`t really
care what the larger public is saying. He cares about the people who are
supporting him right now.

And that tells you a great deal about Cain`s strategy. It`s not
necessarily to win the nomination or to win the presidency. It`s to be as
powerful as he can with that 24 percent of the electorate in Iowa, the Tea
Party faithful. He`s going to be a hero to that movement when he flames
out, which he inevitably has to.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of that answer? Which we have to get the
particulars here. He did admit his willingness to take a lie detector
test. In practically the same sentence, Dana, he said, I`m not going to do
it, because this isn`t a reason to do it.

What did that sentence or combination of thoughts mean? This is
where we have to get to the way the man`s mind works. He is so self-
confident. But is he in any credible way expressing useful truth?

MILBANK: Well, of course not, Chris. If he wanted this to be done,
there`s a very easy way to do it. It`s to authorize the National
Restaurant Association to release these files. Obviously, if the woman
involved in the complaint or agreement or settlement or whatever it`s being
called is coming forth, then that shouldn`t be a problem to have that out
there.

That`s not what this was about tonight. It was raising the level of
the denials to this extraordinary sweeping claim. This really wasn`t about
resolving the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris --

MATTHEWS: Howard, you have to go. We have to go back to Howard.
You have to go, I hear.

Tell me where this story moves to now in terms of, does it go the who
did it, what did he do further witness question, or does it go to the
political track of -- is this going to stand up in the debate tomorrow
night, the CNBC debate? Will it become a part of the political narrative?

FINEMAN: Well, it will be both, but I think it will still be
factual. As Eugene said, he asserted flatly that he didn`t know this
woman.

My understanding is that there is a picture or video of her greeting
him at some event a month ago. I haven`t seen that video, but depending on
how it looks, whether he has a quizzical look, like, who the heck are you,
or whether it`s somebody that he knew, we`ll see soon enough. That`s
number one.

Number two, the federal employee who came forward who`s talked in
"The New York Times" is going to be the story tonight and tomorrow.

Then these two people having come forward, I think the others who
have made allegations may well do so as well. There are a lot more factual
things to come out. And having made the sweeping statements that he made,
that just begs more factual reporting about whether he was telling the
truth or whether he was telling a sweeping lie over a period of a half hour
today.

And as I said, his attorney, who`s a past master of threatening the
media didn`t do that today. And I find that kind of curious. You say that
Herman Cain was so confident. I`m not sure how totally confident he was
despite the cleverly sweeping nature of what he said.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to David on the question, has he recovered
his presumption of innocence before the conservative political world, do
you believe, after this performance?

GREGORY: I just don`t know. I mean, I think that`s a very good
question. But my hunch is that that`s a foundation that`s beginning to
crack.

You have -- I even saw on Twitter, Michelle Malkin, the conservative
commentator, saying that half the people she talked to among conservatives
had believed the woman yesterday, Ms. Bialek.

So, I think that foundation may be beginning to crack. I think
Howard has it exactly right. There wasn`t a lot of room here. I mean,
this was -- I didn`t do anything inappropriately, period, and I don`t know
who she is.

MATTHEWS: Period.

GREGORY: So, if there is additional reporting, if there`s more that
comes, it is what it is. I mean, otherwise it`s very difficult. I think
that the extent to which if Herman Cain is telling the truth, if these are
false allegations, if accusations against him did not have merit and that
stands the test of time, then I think he`ll be strong.

Getting that place, though, could be very difficult when there`s
going to be day after day of questions, and perhaps some, you know,
additional public testimony as it were about this, and people sort of
evaluating people`s credibility here. Remember, the -- I apologize for
mispronouncing her name, Ms. Kraushaar. I mean, she`s 55 years old,
inspector general`s office of the Treasury Department. This is not
somebody who wanted to forward, whose name was leaked, it`s not like
everybody is rushing to the cameras with Gloria Allred and that somehow
made it through the Democratic machine.

MATTHEWS: And we`re going to see an M.O., if you will. I`m using a
criminal term I probably shouldn`t use, but a method. If he`s accused of
the same kinds of pattern of behavior by a number of people, it begins to
take a pattern for most people watching, will say, yes, why would two or
three people say the same thing about something they said he did if he
didn`t do that? And then common sense comes into play.

Howard Fineman, thank you for joining us.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Dana Milbank, a great guest, a great panel, in fact.

The rest of the panel is staying with us for more on the story.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never acted
inappropriately with anyone, period. I saw Ms. Allred and her client
yesterday in that news conference for the very first time. As I sat in my
hotel room with a couple of my staff members as they got to the microphone,
my first response in my mind and reaction was: I don`t even know who this
woman is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with NBC`s David Gregory, "The Washington
Post`s" Eugene Robinson, and political columnist, Cynthia Tucker.

Cynthia, thank you for being on the show tonight. And I want to ask
you about this. This isn`t a case of interpretation by the woman, staff
person, and a way that she interpreted something, a behavior or words by a
male staff or colleague. This is about an action which would not just be
inappropriate, but bad behavior in any setting, possibly criminal behavior.

TUCKER: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Strong, aggressive, sexual advance on a woman of the kind
we talked about or she talked about in her testimony yesterday when she
gave that press conference, talking about grabbing her head and pushing it
towards his crotch, and him reaching towards her genitals -- the whole
thing so graphic and so clear.

His defense wasn`t a limited modified hangout, to use Watergate
language. It wasn`t "we thought we were on a date," it wasn`t "it was a
social event." It was no defense at all, except absolute, clear cut it
didn`t happen.

TUCKER: It didn`t happen.

MATTHEWS: In fact, she didn`t happen in my life. No such person
ever entered my space on earth.

What do you make of that defense? That`s a particular, strategic
decision if it`s not true. If it`s true, it makes perfect sense. If it`s
not true, it`s one heck of a strategy.

TUCKER: Well, it shows he hasn`t learned very much about how to
conduct himself in a campaign. He has already been caught several times by
reporters when he has said things that were clearly not true. So, all
somebody has to do is produce a photograph or video showing him with this
woman.

By the way, Bialek has said she approached Herman Cain fairly
recently, sometime in the last several months, and that he looked very
uncomfortable. I don`t know that there`s a picture of them together.

MATTHEWS: Right.

TUCKER: But she certainly makes the claim that he saw her, and that
he recognized her.

Let me say, however, Chris, that the flipside could also be true. If
this is a powerful man, who is surrounded by women who are in positions
that are much less powerful than he is, and he is constantly hitting on
them or harassing them, it is certainly possible that a man like that
wouldn`t remember the women. It`s just something that is routine to him,
he does it frequently, and he doesn`t remember.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Gene on this question. I guess, I must
imagine -- we almost imagine, you and I, that Gloria Allred, being a top-
rated pro here in this business, and especially media law, that she`s
probably sitting with Sharon Bialek right now and saying, what restaurant
was it, what did you wear, what was he wearing, what time of night was it,
what did you drink, how much did you drink, where was the car parked?
Because she`s going to be at some point basically put in a position to have
to explain everything again in clarity -- with clarity again.

ROBINSON: I imagine she`s probably already done that, Chris. So, it
was -- when I first heard of the story yesterday, the first question that
popped into my mind was, well, you know, this is a really powerful story,
but did Ms. Bialek tell anybody about it contemporaneously? Did she -- or
is she just mentioning it now many years later?

And then, as if on cue, Gloria Allred shows the affidavits from the
boyfriend and the other person, showing she did, indeed, talk about it at
that time.

So, I imagine that she`s probably ahead of both of us in nailing down
the specifics of Ms. Bialek`s versions of events.

MATTHEWS: OK.

ROBINSON: And I guess we`ll probably be hearing them.

MATTHEWS: So, David, enter Karen Kraushaar tomorrow. That`s our big
story tomorrow, I guess.

GREGORY: Well, I think that`s right, because it was actually as a
settlement with her. He has not actually put all the facts on the table
about that. As we were talking here, do you think they really settled just
based on his innocuous comment about height? It raises a question.

MATTHEWS: Yes. It sure does.

Thank you so much. It`s great to have you, David Gregory. Thank
you, Cynthia Tucker, and Eugene Robinson.

We`ll be right back with an all new live edition of HARDBALL in one
hour, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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