Attorney for Cain accuser: Cain is lying
November 1st, 2011
09:45 PM ET
11 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. Brannon

    Herman Cain was never convicted of sexual harassment. So I could care less. He’s still a brilliant, educated, uncorrupt from the government man with a plan. Regardless of this claim, he’s still the same man we all love and know can get us out of the mess that Obama, Busch and others have put our country in financially.
    God bless you Herman, keep praying and we are praying with you. Now go get the Whitehouse.

    October 30, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  2. krissmith777

    Hey! This is not a disqualifier for him to be president. - Remember, Clinton was a wonderful President, and he molested more women than Cain ever could.

    Nice try, but this is not going to hurt Cain.

    October 30, 2011 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  3. Larry

    All I can say is clearance thomas.

    October 30, 2011 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  4. MotherLodeBeth

    Unless the women come forward and can be grilled on the facts and why they settled, its all hearsay to me. A conservative black man makes progress and liberal hacks write stories where the accusers arent even named. So if this turns out to be a lie, then what? Rather than quote POLITICO do your own research and act like a legit news organization.

    October 30, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  5. Observer

    Cain's statement that he opposes abortion for ANY reason tells us all we need to know about his intelligence. This story doesn't matter after that.

    October 30, 2011 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  6. Pat

    He's toast. Better go back to making pizzas.

    October 30, 2011 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  7. John Stewart

    It won't work fully unless these women come forward publicly, he has a right to face his accusers.

    October 30, 2011 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  8. kravitz

    Politico is a republican owned publication with a conservative republican tone. Not a 'liberal' or even moderate one. So for them to have not only dug into the allegations, and to have come up with proof, then to run it. This one won't just 'go away.'

    October 30, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  9. once upon a horse

    so they are so sure that liberals are the ones that started this, huh? Well lately it seems that it's been more Republicans going after Cain than the left so they may want to check their own backyard first.

    October 30, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  10. David

    “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”

    Uh, no.

    October 30, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  11. JW

    the beginning of the end for this guy, rightly or wrongly. can't get elected with this kind of undeclared baggage.

    October 30, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  12. Mike R

    How do you get your political opponent to look like he's sexually harassmed former employees? How much money you got?

    October 30, 2011 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  13. Squigman

    As long as the lowest among us, strives to attain office for personal gain, we'll be a lightning rod for ridicule to the rest of the free nations in the world. Having one's laundry stretched out for all to see is not as honorable, when the laundry is stretched out before it's washed.

    October 31, 2011 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  14. encore

    omg I"m lost for words so that why his wife never stood by his side b/c she knew he was a lair and a cheat and that it would come out smart lady.

    October 31, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  15. TamarS

    hhhmmm – sounds an awful lot like Clarence Thomas behavior – both before AND in response to the accusation. it doesn't surprise me. herman cain is simply a male (Black) Sarah Palin – loves attention and will do anything to get it.

    October 31, 2011 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  16. vikingslost

    And so now the mud within the Republican Party is making its way through the press. Welcome to Campaign 2012, the Republican version.

    October 31, 2011 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  17. Bigred

    Who really cares about this man's inappropriate behavior? The fact is based on his experience in politics, his real grasp of America's political and economic realities, and his knowledge of the works of Washington all of which amount to zero we would be hard pressed to find a less capable candidate. It would be like giving a plumber the job as head brain surgeon in a hospital. The result would be disastrous.

    October 31, 2011 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  18. FIELD1stSGT

    Isn't this the standard for immoral canidates to deny the charges. He is not the first. There was Obama, Bill Clinton, Martin L. king, Weiner, etc. Too many to mention. But all charged and without a doubt the charges are true. Look at Obama and where his leadership has led this country. I for one am ready for someone new. He must be a Patriot and a man of God or we are a dommed nation.

    October 31, 2011 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  19. MAC

    Politico does not have a liberal bias? NOT! If these women were not politically motivated they would come forward and give their proof and let the public judge their motivation and truthfulness, especially since this is atleast 12 years old.

    October 31, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  20. Mitt Romney

    Stick a fork in him...he's done.

    October 31, 2011 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  21. james

    Bye Bye baby...999 sure was short short short.

    October 31, 2011 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  22. tcaros

    Cain is innappropriate. He's alot like Palin. He says whatever comes into the melon head without thinking it through. He thinks a quick answer is better than a taking his time with a correct answer.

    October 31, 2011 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  23. T'sah from Virginia

    ►"Since Washington establishment critics haven't had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain's ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can."◄

    What does the WH have to do with this???? Secondly, I think all of Cain's critics did have luck in attacking Cain – it's the people who are following him that do not "get it."

    ►When asked directly if he had ever been accused of sexual harassment, Cain responded by saying: “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”◄

    Well, that is not how you answer a question if you are innocent??? Where is Cain's wife – the so-called "FLOTUS????" I will NOT say that these allegations are true until I hear more facts – but it does not sound right when you answer a question with a question??

    This is all part of the "vetting" process. People who run for president should have NO skeletons in their closets. This is why I truly believe that Cain started this ONLY to promote his book and it got out of hand. We will never meet his family; we already met some people from his church who were not pleased with his accusations about "brainwashed" Black people; he always SAY one thing and then MEAN something else; and now he is fighting "rumors" that he cannot answer whether they are true or not.

    Good Luck Cain!!

    October 31, 2011 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  24. us1776

    Oh yes, Mr. Koch-shill. 9-9-9 is just the ticket to shift more of the tax burden to the middle-class and the poor.

    Cain, did you ever hear the expression "the straw that broke the camels back" ?


    October 31, 2011 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  25. AmericanSam

    This doesn't look good for the Cain campaign to say the least.

    October 31, 2011 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
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