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A few minutes ago, Herman Cain spoke at a press conference to address the sexual harassment scandal that's been plaguing his campaign for the last few weeks. "Good afternoon," he began, "I am Herman Cain and I am running for president of the United States." Cain, who is known for speaking with no teleprompters or any other preparation, apologized for using notes but said that he had many important points to get to at the press conference. He began: "I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period!" (Those two sentences were repeated later in the conference, also.)

Cain claimed—while acknowledging that he had no proof—to be victimized by a "Democrat Machine" that is trying to ruin his reputation. He suggested that powerful forces want to ruin him because "the American people have wanted a businessman in the White House," but the powerful forces do not. Cain says more sexual harassment claims will come forward, "not because I am aware of them, but because the machine to keep a businessman out of the White House will be relentless." He claimed to have never met Sharen Bialek, calling her a "troubled woman," adding that Karen Kraushaar's charges were proved false. The rest he dismissed as "anonymous."

As I wrote this morning, I think this press conference will only strengthen Cain's base. It perpetuated the persecution complex—his statements were highly reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's "vast right wing conspiracy" statements from the 90s—and framed Cain as a businessman fighting an establishment that's trying as hard as it can to destroy him. Teabaggers eat that stuff up; I don't think Herman Cain is going away anytime soon.

(The full, unedited live-Slog can be found after the jump.)

UPDATE 2:04 PM: Nothing's happening yet, but that's a hell of a backdrop, isn't it? Five American flags. Five! That's about as patriotic as you can get without going full Patton.

UPDATE: 2:06 PM: Herman Cain is standing with one hand coolly in his pocket as someone—his lawyer?—talks about people who were victimized by harassment suits.

UPDATE: 2:07 PM: I think the lawyer called Bialek "Sharon Bydick." He's repeatedly hammering the fact that she's just brought this up "for the first time," although the alleged incident happened fourteen years ago.

UPDATE: 2:08 PM: "I ask that you at least afford him fairness." Calls the story "inherently improbable on its face." Now Herman Cain is taking the podium.

UPDATE 2:10 PM: "Good afternoon. I am Herman Cain and I am running for president of the United States." He apologizes for using notes. "I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period!"

UPDATE 2:11 PM: He says he's never met Bialek, and doesn't recognize her name at all. That's not what the Chicago Sun Times reported.

UPDATE 2:12 PM: "You know, for decades, the American people have wanted a businessman in the White House....Well a businessman named Herman Cain stepped forward. Here I am." He says of backing out of the race: "Ain't gonna happen." Says he will not bow to "false, anonymous, incorrect accusations."

UPDATE 2:15 PM: He says the American people want him to run. "We will get through this. The fact is, these anonymous allegations are false. And now the Democrat machine has brought forth this troubled woman...I have been married for 43 years to my wife Gloria." His wife said to him, "That doesn't even sound like you."

UPDATE 2:17 PM: "I ask that the media leave my family out of this....I ask you as professionals to direct your questions, your criticisms, toward me. Not my family." He says these attacks were "expected. I will not allow false accusations to compromise or otherwise shed badly on my character or my integrity."

UPDATE 2:19 PM: Questions!

UPDATE 2:20 PM: Would Cain do a lie detector test? "Yes! I absolutely would."

UPDATE 2:20 PM: How would you convince voters to vote for you? Cain says he doesn't need to win 100% of the vote. He needs to win 51%. He says rebuilding the truth "would be a challenge," but he wants to stand with the people who trusted him through this.

UPDATE 2:22 PM: Do you believe sexual harassment is real? Cain says "I have seen instances where it could be interpreted as sexual harassment and if I saw it and if it were an employee...I dealt with it immediately, before the other person perceived it." He says he's seen women sexually harass men, too.

UPDATE 2:23 PM: What about Karen Kraushaar? "Baseless," Cain says. "She couldn't find anyone to corroborate her story. It ended up being an agreement, not a settlement."

UPDATE 2:25 PM: Are the women making it up? Where is this coming from? "Some people don't want to see Herman Cain get the Republican nomination," Herman Cain says. "There will probably be others, not because I am aware of them, but because the machine to keep a businessman out of the White House will be relentless."

UPDATE 2:27 PM: Lost the feed for a while. Cain intimated that while he didn't have proof, he suspects a "Democrat machine." Now he's saying while he doesn't "know how the brain works," he is good at recognizing people. He says he won't recognize Bialek, he doesn't think. Now a New York Times reporter is asking him to identify what Karen Kraushaar's allegations are.

UPDATE 2:34 PM: Cain reiterates his gesture to Kraushaar, saying she was the same height as his wife.

UPDATE 2:35 PM: Says he cannot "slow this campaign down," and that he'll address these issues as they come up, but then he lists all the crises he thinks America is suffering and says he'll keep fighting them "for the grandkids." Weak applause, and that's it.