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OPINION

Mitt Romney calls Cain allegations "disturbing"

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Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney said Tuesday that the claims by the first woman to go public with allegations of sexual misconduct by Romney rival Herman Cain are "particularly disturbing."

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The former Massachusetts governor briefly addressed claims by Sharon Bialek in an interview with ABC News and Yahoo, which are conducting joint interviews of all the Republican presidential candidates Tuesday.

Romney called Bialek's allegations "serious" and said "they're going to have to be addressed seriously."

"I don't have any counsel for Herman Cain or for his campaign, they have to take their own counsel on this," Romney said.

Two unidentified women got financial settlements from the National Restaurant Association after complaining of inappropriate behavior by Cain when he headed the trade group from 1996 to 1999. A third unidentified woman also said she was sexually harassed but did not file a claim. Bialek is the first to put a name and a face on the accusations, considerably raising the stakes for Cain.

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Asked if the allegations are disqualifying for Cain, Romney declined to say.

"I don't want to suppose truth or lack of truth I just think it's important to recognize that a number of women have come forward with concerns; this woman's charges are particularly disturbing and they're serious," he said.

Cain was asked about Romney's comments in his Yahoo/ABC interview Tuesday afternoon.

"He's right. They're disturbing to me. They are serious. I have taken them serious," said Cain. "And my response is there's absolutely no basis to them. It's a distraction to this whole primary process. But I'm not initiating this."

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