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. Cedar Rapids

    "Julie Ericksen – Undoubtedly this is a revenge action from the planned parenthood mob..."

    really? you have no connection what so ever, or even a mention, to planned parenthood, and 'mob' really? lol.

    October 31, 2011 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  2. Willie K.

    Clinton didn't harass anyone. The ladies liked Clinton. As for the liberals going after Cain, you can bet the instigators of this information are some of the leadership of the national Republican party. They cannot control Cain, as he is too "mavericky," to use a phrase from the last election. The R's in charge do not want this man to be the nominee. The liberals would love for him to be the R nominee.

    October 31, 2011 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  3. Dirk

    To be honest I don't like Herman Cain. Then again I don't like any of the possible Republican candidates. However, unless the women are going to come out and make a statement against Cain this all remains hearsay and unproven. If these woman accepted a settlement as a way to keep quiet or whatever then it was over years ago. I would prefer attacks on his policies not something that happend 10+ years ago that really can't be proven unless the woman are willing to come forward again.

    October 31, 2011 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  4. James Mason

    I was wondering what the GOP could do to make their field of candidates more unsettled – and I am IMPRESSED!

    October 31, 2011 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  5. Kay

    This was probably set in motion by Romney's or Perry's people, not liberals. They're more threatened by Cain than Obama is.

    October 31, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. Sniffit

    ""You need to deal with the fact these issues are out there and get ahead of the matter and tell people the truth.""

    Hahaha...tell people the truth...and you wonder why this will probably blow up in his face.

    October 31, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  7. Bemused, again

    @Mac: "Politico does not have a liberal bias? NOT! If these women were not politically motivated they would come forward and give their proof ..."
    You forget that there are no liberal Republicans, LoL. Cain is not running against (liberal, socialist, communist, marxist, muslim, kenyan, KANSAN-Hawaiian) president Obama. Cain won't even get that far. His REPubliCaN oppenents made sure of that.

    October 31, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  8. GI Joe

    Politico HAS a copy of the signed agreements. They are protecting the women The NRA is the one to search

    October 31, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  9. RINO Bil

    I guess I have to pose the question, why does Mr. Cain needs the media to identify his accusers by name unless there are other potential victims whose complaints/strories haven't been uncovered yet?

    October 31, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  10. Scott

    This is the Republican's opportunity to escape. They can now say, "Hey we ain't racists... We let Herb have a crack at the top spot.. Seeee." Then they can have a collect sigh of relief. One was even heard to respond to the question: "Can Herman Cain win?" with a "ummfff... Yeah right."

    October 31, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  11. Anonymous

    "I look for this to increase Cain's popularity."

    Yep. Cain's turning into a regular $arah Palin. Well, with the media's help anyway. For myself, I could care less about him. Dude's never going to be President, or Vice President. EVER.

    October 31, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  12. GI Joe

    Like Perry, Cain has caught Palinitis -

    They are out to get me. The mean media is picking on me Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

    October 31, 2011 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  13. Old Farmboy

    Okay, let's see if I have this journalism thing right. I can make something up based on the condition of anonymity, put it in ink and shazamm, it's gospel.

    October 31, 2011 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  14. JenniferM

    I know someone who worked at the National Restaurant Association while he was there, and she said the entire environment was a cesspoole. I wouldn't be surprised if these allegations are true.

    October 31, 2011 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  15. DE

    If he was a Democrat the right would already have himconvicted.

    October 31, 2011 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  16. Puddin

    After listening and observing Mr. Cain for awhile, I got an "uneasy" feeling about him; like he is a "farce." Then, after seeing his bizarre ad, I felt more uncomfortable about him. I took the ad to mean, he isn't sincere, he's just "blowing smoke" in our faces. He comes across as strong-willed and doesn't care what anyone thinks about him. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He said "if you don't have a job, you've only yourself to blame." The I saw in an interview with Piers Morgan, when they were speaking about jobs, he said "there are no jobs out there." He described how that border fence with Mexico should be built (without a smile) and then, when critized about that, he said "it was a joke." It was no joke. Folks, when you vote, my feeling is "thumbs down on Cain."

    October 31, 2011 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Amber (like so many others) wrote:
    Here we go. The media and the DEM machine doing their best to dig up dirt since they can't challenge Cain on his plan for America. This is the dirty underside of the political process. In a way, I wish that the GOP would just try to dig up the same or worse type of dirt on Obama
    Don't go blaming the main stream media, liberal media, etc, for this story. It originated out of a media organization with a conservative tilt.

    BTW, the conservative media has already dug up all of the dirt they could find on Obama. The best they could come up with was, "he's not a US citizen", "he's not one of us", "he's a muslim", "he's a communist", "he's a terrorist", "he drinks Koolaid", and other juvenile rally cries and lies.

    October 31, 2011 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  18. FIELD1stSGT

    us1776 – What country are you in. As far asd I see the middle class and the poor (especially) pay very little taxes for I am one of them. You get most of your money and if poor, all of it back plus some at the end of the year. These remarsk to tax the rich more or the middle class will foot the bill is pure crap. A falsity seen only in the eys of fools. If not for the rich this country would have already folded arms. Now with the stooge Obama in the White House we're due to fall anyway.

    October 31, 2011 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  19. Tough USA

    Failed policies, Smooth talking politician, He said, She said, Sex offenses. Only one man will restore America and Liberty. Ron Paul 2012 !!!

    October 31, 2011 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  20. Rsprings

    Can you spell Clarence Thomas.? When the Left is afraid they will dig up dirt..maybe even manufacture some. CAN ANY ONE SAY BILL CLINTON??? Give me a break.

    Sexual harassment by it's nature is ambiguous. It it in many cases a matter of perception.

    October 31, 2011 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  21. Natalie in MN

    Not surprised at all.

    October 31, 2011 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  22. Tough USA

    Failed policies, He said, She said, Smooth talking politicians. Sex offenses. Only one man can Restore American and Liberty.
    Ron Paul 2012 !!!

    October 31, 2011 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  23. Marques

    Another 'HOLY' Republican?

    How long will it take for us to learn that these 'HOLY' republicans are nothing close to being holy? The list gets longer as soon as they enter the spotlight. The list could not hold here if I even try, however, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain are just two examples which are singled out since they current run for the 'HOLY' republican nomination. The real question is, 'who will be the next?'

    Gingrich dares not opened his mouth on this allegation about Cain. Even if Cain made sexual advancement or sexually motivated comment(s), there's no evidence that he succeeded. Gingrich on the other hand, made sexual comments and advancements and was successful on more than one occasions. Do we wonder why he cannot advance in the polls in his attempt to gain the nomination? He doesn't have to wonder, he knows why.

    These 'HOLY' republicans are proving one by one that they are humans and make the mistakes like anyone else. So, they should stop being 'HOLY' when they know they are not.

    October 31, 2011 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  24. Rudy NYC

    russinmaine wrote:
    " How ironic that when it is TRUE like in the case of Bill Clinton, the media and the Democrats sweep it under the rug."
    The Bill Clinton story didn't get swept under the rug. It was just conveniently overshadowed by the ridiculously hypocritical infidelity of the House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, who was Clinton's main accuser.

    October 31, 2011 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  25. Robert - Atlanta

    Cain is a failed businessman; he drove the pizza chain in the ground. But, like all rich republican businessmen, he can’t keep his hands off the women! Now he’s lying about it and blaming other people for his behavior. The big, fat settlement speaks for the whole affair – they don’t give away 5-figure payoffs if nothing really happened. But he should look to Slick Rick or Mittens and stop blaming the media for putting the story out.

    October 31, 2011 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
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