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. Terry

    So, Cain was never convicted, but the women who received five figure settlements are restricted from talking to the press, as part of their settlement agreements. So, why pay off the women?

    October 31, 2011 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  2. v_mag

    Herman Cain has no experience or qualifications to run the country, but he is in the race. That's what I call "inappropriate behavior".

    October 31, 2011 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  3. Sick of it

    Typical Libral Media trying to take down someone who they are afraid of. It just goes to show you that they dont have a mustard seed of faith in thier savior obama.

    October 31, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  4. mario

    This guy is a clown I knew this from day one he may be able to run a bussines but that is long way from running a country he ill prepared in every waymy prediction he will derail all by himself

    October 31, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. Numyorangay

    Nine-nine-nine = 27 = 9. . .told you those hand gestures meant something else
    Anne Coulter jumping in to defend a black conservative. . .that's rich, but then again, when she heard about the 999, well, speaks for itself.

    October 31, 2011 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    from the article:
    "Since Washington establishment critics haven't had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain's ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, .... "
    You don't need luck. All you need is brains and a dose of common sense. Cain's plan funnels money upward, in reverse Robin Hood fashion. His plan is "trickle down" economics at its' overt worse.

    We always here conservatives complaining about how companies, and "the job creators", have a couple of trllion dollars in the bank waiting for the economy to pick up. Why would giving them more money to put into their bank accounts motivate them to create jobs when demand for goods is low?

    I'll tell you why. Because the product(s) they wish to sell are not manufactured goods, but capital itself. The zenith of capitalism is when your only product that you sell is capital itself. That is the direction that this country is being led to by the 1%.

    October 31, 2011 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  7. THunter99

    Don't you just love how it's implied that only the "liberal press" cares about getting to the bottom of these issues? Statements like that make me wonder how many issues get "buried" by the "conservative press" . . . .unless the issue concerns a moderate, liberal, or progressive politician.

    October 31, 2011 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  8. Biggerdawg

    So these two accepted separation packages in the five figures and are coming forward now because.... the money they received that made everything better ran out? I'm sure there was some sort of non disclosure clause with these packages. So if I am to believe that these women, who agreed and signed off on payment, were so traumatized that they have renewed their claims, why didn't they do this before most of us even knew who Cain was? why now? NOW that he's on the trail to become elected POTUS, here come these two. Furthermore, these womens credibility certainly is in question, tainted out of the gates at the very least, as they are not even capable of honoring THEIR own word and signature. Clearly this is a smear campaign that will fail. Transparent, lame and without merit.

    October 31, 2011 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  9. Catherine

    Why is it when the media investigates a black, conservative candidate and they find something , it is a lynching and when they investigate a liberal, it isn't. Cain should just answer the allegations and move on. As for the claim it smacks of opposition research. So what if it is?

    October 31, 2011 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  10. The Real Tom Paine

    FIELD1stSGT, I hate to break this to you, but MLK never ran for an office, and Obama has never been charged with anything like this. You did, however, neglect to mention Chris Lee, Mark Foley, Larry Craig, and any number of conservative pols. Your basic point is correct, but you are very selective with much of your evidence.

    October 31, 2011 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  11. linda jones

    This s not a liberal media story. Liberals will like for Cain to be the GOP nominee. I lives in Texas and this smells like a Perry plot. Look out Cain, Texas Perry is gunning for U.

    October 31, 2011 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  12. A True Centrist

    "Politico is a republican owned publication with a conservative republican tone. Not a 'liberal' or even moderate one."

    OK – note to self, kravitz has no idea what he is talking about and don't waste time reading his comments moving forward. You think Politico...the same Politico that said Perry will benefit in the GOP primary if he is perceived as a racist, the same Politico that called the GOP field "Losers", the same Politico that GOP leadership called for a conservative? Ok then, any Republicans on here want to call FoxNews liberal?

    October 31, 2011 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  13. Peter

    Well, I guess it was ound to happen sooner or later. The liberal press tearing down Herman Cain. Build them up, tear them down. Well, at least it sells papers.

    October 31, 2011 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  14. linda jones

    I'm a liberal and I will defend Mr. Cain. This is all hear say. Where are the facts. Look out Cain the GOP is coming for U!

    October 31, 2011 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  15. josh rogen

    it's the Clarence Thomas attack all over didn't work then what makes them think it'll work now?

    October 31, 2011 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  16. mageen

    Whoops! Herm already blew it with his initial response of "who said that?" Not, "Hell, no!" which is what he should have said. He gave away the fact that he had a supposedly iron-clad agreement of No Tell in this situation. This is just like when somebody tells another that his wife has been killed and the husband never asks how or why.

    October 31, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  17. Tired of the nonsense

    Wow. Politicians attacking politicians. What's next? The sun rising in the east and setting in the west?

    October 31, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  18. Muckracking Is..

    Yes, mudracking is bad, stupid and non-productive (in every party). If Cain is accused of something, he too has the right to know the accusers. IF it were true even, that there was a settlement, that means "case closed". Potential accusers got paid and agreed not to talk. No one now should bring up imaginary or silent accusers.
    Just my opinion, from a NON-supporter of Cain. ( I do not endorse, support or like his self serving, rather lightweight political views).

    October 31, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  19. Florida Joe

    Anyone that thinks Politico is a liberal news organization is not paying attention………Of course anyone that support this lightweight puppet of the Koch brothers is not paying attn.
    This guy can’t string 2 thoughts together…….this joke will be over soon…………

    October 31, 2011 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  20. Cedar Rapids

    'Liberals tried to do the same thing with Clarence Thomas. All allegations were proved to be false.'

    erm, no they werent. It came down to a 'he said, she said', but they were not proved to be false at all.

    October 31, 2011 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  21. Unclassified

    I have to giggle a bit anytime Ann Coulter speaks....

    October 31, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  22. FedUpWithLife

    Does anybody know who this Herman Cain guy is, I never heard of him?

    October 31, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  23. Scott

    Liberals won't/didn't go after Cain... We love him. He's great for us!!! We know he can't win, so we'd even help him get the nomination. So Bo@ortz, you can blame it on liberals if you like, but Politico is not a "liberal" outfit. C'mon maaaan.

    I was actually hoping Herman Cain would last a few more weeks. I could see Re@publicans thinking, "Well dang... This is a fine mess we got ourselves into!!!" You could see the attacks beginning to come from OTHER REPUBLIC@NS. Not Democr@ts. We just give him a little piece of rope, and watch him try to be a cowboy. Yahooooo.

    October 31, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  24. westward

    Not surprised. Romney's and Perry's men have probably been turning over every stone in Cain's entire life for months now.

    The bad thing – NONE of them have anything REAL to offer this country.

    October 31, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  25. Larry L

    Morality is nothing more than a political issue to conservatives. They spent 90 million dollars of taxpayer money in the effort to nail Bill Clinton while Newt Gingrich was "nailing" a staffer – while his wife fought cancer! Old Newt is standing on the stage at the Republican debates as a viable candidate. So much for morality... Dick Cheney was Haliburton's man when the Department of Defense Auditor declared they'd cheated the military out of billions of dollars in Iraq – so Cheney's thugs gave them a bonus! Again, morality isn't important unless you can use the word "liberal" in the rant. Cheney's lies to start the Iraq War cost us over 5000 Soldiers and Marines lives plus trillions of dollars. The lies that started the war were crafted by a draft-dodger. Morality... no problem. They won't be bothered by Cain's behavior.

    October 31, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
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