Herman Cain goes on the attack against Sharon Bialek

Washington Bureau

Sharon Bialek is learning firsthand why the other three women who have accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment may have resisted going fully public with their claims.

The Chicago-area woman, whose name and face was broadcast all over American television Monday as she described being groped 14 years ago by the Republican presidential hopeful, has a past. And after making herself the first – and as of yet, the only – accuser whose name has been made public, that past is being dug up.

“Who is Sharon Bialek?” is the subject line of the latest email from Cain’s presidential campaign, which has struggled for the last week to deliver a consistent and convincing response to the harassment allegations.

“As Ms. Sharon Bialek has placed herself in the public spotlight through making patently false allegations against Herman Cain, it is only fair to compare her track record alongside Mr. Cain’s,” the email says.

The email lists six court cases in which a Sharon Bialek is listed as a defendant and states that Bialek filed for bankruptcy in 1991 and 2001. And it cites TV news reports that Bialek was sued “over a paternity matter” in 1999 and that she “has worked for nine employers over the last 17 years.”

“The questions should be – who is financing her legal team, have any media agreed to pay for her story, and has she been offered employment for taking these actions?” the email concludes.

Cain campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon defended the tactic.

“We thought it was important to address the facts about who Sharon Bialek is,” Gordon said. “We think her track record speaks for itself. We just think it’s important that the American people are asking the hard questions about Sharon Bialek’s background and what her motivation may be at this time.”

Bialek responded to the campaign’s questions as she made the rounds on morning talk shows Tuesday.

“I was not paid to come forward, nor was I promised any employment,” she said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “I’m just doing this because it’s the right thing to do.”

She acknowledged filing for bankruptcy – “I was struggling” – and she told CNN’s Piers Morgan that she knew going public meant her past would be dredged up.

“There’s going to be a lot of backlash and I’m going to have to suffer through that and I’m sure I’m going to be portrayed as different things,” Bialek said. “I’m willing to handle it. I’m a tough girl.”

Cain, for his part, was signaling early last week that he anticipated more allegations to surface after the complaints by two unnamed women were reported by Politico.

“I’m sure there are going to be some more trumped-up charges,” Cain told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham last week. “People are going to try and dig up things.”

Indeed, if Bialek is telling the truth, Cain was reminded of her last month when she introduced herself at a “tea party” event in Chicago.

According to Bialek, Cain seemed to remember her and appeared “uncomfortable.”

Times staff writers Robin Abcarian and James Oliphant contributed to this report.