Attorney for Cain accuser: Cain is lying
November 1st, 2011
09:45 PM ET
2 years ago

Attorney for Cain accuser: Cain is lying

(CNN) – A woman who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment believes the presidential hopeful is lying about the claims, her attorney said Tuesday night.

"She's been very upset about this since the story broke last Sunday, because Mr. Cain has been giving the impression she came out and made false allegations," lawyer Joel Bennett said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."

He also maintained that the case was resolved in a sexual harassment settlement, not a termination agreement, as Cain has described in the last two days when talking about one of the cases.

The woman is one of two who were reported filing sexual harassment charges against Cain when he led the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s, according to a story reported by POLITICO on Sunday.

Cain has since repeatedly denied that he has ever sexually harassed anyone.

She wants to go public with her side of the story, Bennett said, but she's confined to a confidentiality agreement with the trade group.

Bennett said he has not contacted the organization but has suggested through the media that the NRA waive the confidentiality agreement, freeing the woman to talk.

"Until they do that, she's not going to speak out," Bennett said.

The NRA said that Bennett had not reached out to the organization, but that NRA officials had seen reports of his request.

"If we are contacted by Mr. Bennett, we will respond as appropriate," said Sue Hensley, a spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association, in a statement obtained by CNN.

Asked Tuesday night on Fox News if Cain would push the NRA to go along with the woman's request, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO said he couldn't answer the question because of "legal implications."

The new developments come after nearly two days of interviews and appearances in which Cain gradually released more - at times, inconsistent – information about the allegations.

But when pressed on the contractual agreement, Cain denied that he had violated the confidentiality terms himself, when he talked about the claims to the media.

"I never used their name," Cain said on Fox News Tuesday. "For one of them I didn't even know the name."

So far, Cain has only released details about one of the charges, saying it involved him gesturing to a woman that she was the same height as his wife –about 5 feet tall - and came up to his chin.

While Bennett did not indicate which client he was representing, he said that his client, to his recollection, was taller than 5 feet. He said she's also "happily married" and works for the federal government.

According to the POLITICO report, the other woman alleged that Cain made an "unwanted sexual advance" at a hotel room in Chicago.

Responding to those allegations, Cain has repeatedly said he does not recall doing that and has never sexually harassed anyone.

Earlier Tuesday, Cain blamed the passage of time for his inconsistencies in recalling the details of an allegation.

"This was 12 years ago and I was trying to recollect this in the middle of an already busy planned day," Cain told HLN, CNN's sister network, in an interview Tuesday. "After 12 hours during the day, I was able to gradually recall more and more details about what happened 12 years ago. ... I wasn't given the opportunity to think about it for the day before starting to answer questions."

Cain assailed what he called a "smear campaign" against him and didn't rule out the idea that an opponent from the right or left launched the attack as part of a "witch hunt."

Bennett, the attorney, said Tuesday night that, from his understanding, a "former board member of the National Restaurant Association leaked the story to POLITICO."

POLITICO reported separation packages were given to two former employees at the NRA in the five-figure range.

During an appearance at the National Press Club on Monday, Cain said he was "not aware of any settlement." But later in the day, Cain changed course, saying he did not know of an "agreement."

"The word 'settlement' versus the word 'agreement.' I'm not sure what they called it. I know that there was some sort of agreement, but because it ended up being minimal, they didn't have to bring it to me," Cain said in a PBS interview Monday.

He added that his counsel and the head of human resources at the association were in charge of handling the complaint.

"So it wasn't one of those things where it got above a certain authority level and I had to sign it," Cain said. "If I did - and I don't think I did - I don't even remember signing it, because it was minimal in terms of what the agreement was."

On HLN Tuesday, Cain said he remembers a "separation agreement," as opposed to a "legal settlement" with one of his accusers.

Cain described the incident, when the alleged offense occurred, as a conversation between him and a female employee about her height.

"The only other thing that I could remember when I was asked about any specific things that were in the allegation, I came up with the fact that I made a gesture by putting my hand under my chin, standing near this lady, saying, 'Oh, you're the same height as my wife,'" Cain said. "My wife is 5 feet tall, she comes up to my chin and I was simply making that comparison."

"We were in my office, the door was wide open and my assistant was sitting right outside," he added.

The financial settlement with the accuser "was in the vicinity of 3 to 6 months' severance pay," Cain said, adding that the payment was "not outside our guidelines for what most people get ... when they leave the Restaurant Association involuntarily."

He told HLN's Robin Meade he recalls nothing about a second alleged incident of harassment.

"Obviously, someone is encouraging them to bring it up now because I'm doing so well" in the political race, he said. "I absolutely believe that this is an intended smear campaign."

Cain said Tuesday that if could do Monday over, he would have waited to speak on the matter until Monday night when he had more time to recall the events surrounding the allegations. He also acknowledged it "looked like" he changed his story.

Cain, who has recently surged to the top of national polls, said the controversy may hurt his poll numbers, but would not affect his supporters, who he said "have not been shaken by this whatsoever." His campaign said it raised more than $400,000 on Monday.

"Yesterday [Monday] online we had one of our highest fundraising days in the campaign, one of the highest ever so what it has done, I believe, it has backfired on those who are trying to put a cloud over my campaign because they can't shoot down my ideas," Cain said Tuesday.

POLITICO described the alleged harassment as including "conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association's offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship."

Jonathan Martin, senior political reporter for POLITICO, told CNN Monday one woman was asked to come to Cain's hotel room. She complained to an association board member, and was one of the women who subsequently left the organization, Martin said.

Martin said POLITICO gave Cain's campaign 10 days to respond to the allegations. First, he was told the allegations had been "settled amicably by parties years ago," he said.

Ken Vogel, a POLITICO reporter and one of the story's authors, told MSNBC Monday the story stemmed from "a tip," but that "we are not going into the source of that tip."

When pressed on specifics, a Cain spokesman told POLITICO that Cain "vaguely recalled" the incidents and referred him to the NRA's general counsel, Martin said. However, the organization's personnel policy prohibits it from commenting, Martin said, and the Cain campaign would not say more.

Martin said he confronted Cain after his appearance Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation." A CNN camera captured Cain responding to a series of questions from Martin.

"I'm not going to comment about two people that you won't tell me who they are," Cain said. "OK. That's like negotiating."

Asked several times whether he has ever been accused of harassment. Cain eventually responded, "Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?"

"He was given the chance to answer a very direct question," Martin said Monday morning. "He did not say 'yes' or 'no' to that question."

A spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association responded to the POLITICO report in a statement Monday.

"The incidents in question relate to personnel matters that allegedly took place nearly fifteen years ago," Sue Hensley, the NRA's senior vice president for public affairs, said in a statement. "Consistent with our longstanding policy, we don't comment on personnel issues relating to current or former employees."

POLITICO said it spoke to a roster of former NRA board members, current and past staffers and others familiar with the workings of the trade group during Cain's tenure. The newspaper reported it also saw documents that described the allegations.

The women complained that Cain's behavior "made them angry and uncomfortable, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association," POLITICO said.

The newspaper said it confirmed the women's identities, but said it did not publish their names out of privacy concerns.

– CNN's Kevin Bohn and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • Herman Cain
soundoff (1,415 Responses)
  1. pelegrim

    I knew it! He looks like a perv

    October 31, 2011 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  2. Name shmame

    Last comment censored. How about this ? A five figure settlement , depending on how you slice it is only 10k. Censorship is/will be the slow death of news outlets. Why do it ? The public already believes CNN is stagnating. I dont even watch your channel anymore. Its free on my phone, thats the only reason I am reading /commenting on this . As a reliable news source you are going downhill fast. Funny thing is people accuse you of being liberal or left. Your quality is in steady decline. Censorship is not wise. And dont tell me I was off topic. This entire story is off topic . The way you have been covering the occupy movement shows you cant see the forest for the trees. Plus ill bet all the experienced journalists are being forced or otherwise coerced out to make room for pretty unquestioning kids, who are so happy just to be working they would never rock the boat, ie do any real reporting . CNN was once the more honest of news reporters. Keep talking talking heads. You are becoming stale.

    October 31, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. Peace

    Cains accusation is almost similar to the recent former boss (french man) of IMF. His case was dismissed, so should be the accusation of Cain.

    October 31, 2011 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. ward

    While the accusers may not be 'named' it is a fact that two woman were paid off to the tune of 5$figures to drop these accusations. Where there's smoke there is fire. I knew he couldn't be so squeaky clean with that angry look on his mug. And you idiots defending him. The fanatic right has NO shame and never did.

    October 31, 2011 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. david

    what's that sound? Oh yea...the sound of money padding someone's hand to make things like this "have no basis"

    October 31, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Anon

    This has Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it. He's supporting Romney. Remember the "John McCain has a black love child" hoax he perpetrated for Bush during the 2000 South Carolina primary? Rove is the undisputed master of campaign dirty tricks.

    October 31, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. Lenny Pincus

    Really? You think Romney or Gingrich or Santorum or Bachmann or Perry wouldn't have run with this story if they had found it first? Look at the lame stuff they do bring up. Last week Perry was talking about Obama's birth certificate. Bachmann accuses everyone who doesn't agree with her of unAmericanism. Gingrich talks about culture wars while collecting marriages like marbles. Liberal media my butt. This is politics.

    October 31, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Tom from Canonsburg

    First, I want to say that I'm not intending to bash this guy. Every guy here has unintentionally made women somewhere uncomfortable. We all do. Not to sound callous, sometimes it is just plain how she feels at that moment. In George Carlin terms, they never forget those moments. Sometimes as simple as she's flirting with "George" and "Bill" thinks it's meant for him. He flirts back and then he's a jerk. I see it at the pub every week.

    October 31, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. Mike Johnson

    ... and if it is true ... so what? ...

    October 31, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. sharoom

    Wait what? Why are so many Cain supporters on this site convinced that this is an attack from liberals?

    October 31, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. cnnsucks

    Worthless liberal media is worthless liberal media.

    Had this been someone saying something about Obama, it wouldn't even appear on CNN. And if it did, it would be trashing the WOMEN.

    F Libs. They are worthless racists that are a plague to society.

    October 31, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  12. elli

    he's a disgusting piece of trash

    October 31, 2011 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  13. Kevin

    This is what the vicious left does when they can't call him a "racist". Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? The media is clearly trying to knock off the Republican front-runner because it is threatened...as it well should be.

    I have not given money to a presidential candidate but am now motivated by the mean-spirited, evil-hearted people, who have hidden behind liberal and racial causes but are only nihilists, anarchists and racists themselves. None of these critics could have ever pulled themselves up and made such a successful life as this man.

    If there was anything to this story (think, you money grubbing liberal hypocrites) these women would have pursued him when he was making millions as CEO of Pizza Hut. What sad, ignorant, racist little mice these people are.

    October 31, 2011 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  14. Susane

    This man is pathetic. Everyone knows this story is true.

    October 31, 2011 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. Mark

    OBAMA 2012. Clearly the only adult in the room! Clean as a whistle, and equality for all! A proven record.

    October 31, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. gutsycall

    Who dug this up? My money is on Mitt Romney. The best research team in the business. Cain is in his crosshairs.

    October 31, 2011 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. emma

    Too [two] many claims and money shelled out to keep quiet does not sound like he was framed. If he were to say he's sorry and learned his lesson I would respect that but tarring the victims is low class.

    October 31, 2011 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. Jay

    "It's outrageous the way liberals treat a black conservative," columnist Ann Coulter said on Fox News.

    God I can't stop laughing at that line! Oh, Ann, you anorexic, horse-faced Nazi – you really hit that one out of Ironic Park! Good job!

    October 31, 2011 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. gutsycall

    If Romney thinks this is the last tea party candidate to crosshair, he's wrong. Ron Paul will emerge if Cain falls. Romney, you are a human pretzel, weather vane. Say WHATEVER it takes, tear down whomever it takes to get elected.

    October 31, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  20. Joe

    That's nothing. Someone I talked to overheard that Obama wanted to suspend elections and take total, lifelong control of the US. Now I won't name any names, I won't give away anymore details, but Obama has got a lot of explaining to do now, doesn't he?

    Bunch of nonsense from Obama's media army doing anything in their power to destroy their threats. Can't run on anything record-wise, so time to attack. Absolutely pathetic and transparent.

    October 31, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. Xman

    oh lookie, it seems Hermann went from NINE NINE NINE to BYE BYE BYE.

    October 31, 2011 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  22. gutsycall

    Everyone knows this is Mitt Romney and his well financed "deep thought" bullies out to take out the one honest candidate.

    October 31, 2011 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  23. Chloe in Chatsworth, CA

    Wow, this is the kind of angry defensive response you expect for an article critical of Israel. The Cain campaign might be better organized than it's given credit for.

    October 31, 2011 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  24. snarks

    The liberals just can't stand that there is a real b lack man running for office, and that he tops the polls and is the most like on the GOP side. They can't stand the fact that they now have to admit their racism, and bigotry. They allowed obama in because he is half white, but hate the fact that a real, smart black man may take office. A man who has worked a real job and created jobs (unlike obama), a man who has worked within the military (unlike obama), a man who knows that the country needs jobs, not more outrageous, worthless spending.

    October 31, 2011 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  25. AgrippaMt

    Methinks Herman doth complain too much. Sounds like Clarence Thomas redux.

    October 31, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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