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. Scott

    Based on his response and the fact that its been published would seem to indicate this is not a complete fabrication and that there is something to the story. Given that there's at least something to it, the reason he's facing the questioning is because he's running for office not because he's black or a conservative. Either way, I'm not so sure I'd blame the liberals for this coming out now. The liberals would be smart enough to keep this in thier back pocket until he won the primary or was selected as VP. It's more likely the source for this story is one of his fellow candidates trying to slow some of his momentum.

    October 31, 2011 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  2. John B

    Sounds to me as if he already faced his accusers...and offered them money to go away. Now he wants them to become headline news and "face him" again? You don't PAY people that accuse you of something you didn't do. If you did...then you are an idiot.

    October 31, 2011 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  3. Surprise, Surprise!

    I'm shocked that a man who is running for POTUS, and so tightly clings to the word "Christian" is NOT pristine in the sexual department. If the charges are true Mr. Cain's political career is killed. Part of President B.O. and his wife's appeal is how fresh and clean they are. There is nothing a bible thumping repub hates more than a clean democrat who doesn't need to cling to the word Christian because of sexual sins.

    October 31, 2011 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  4. John

    You know It that It true Or they wouldn't have pay them off. But I'M not Surprise.

    October 31, 2011 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  5. Timing

    To all those who see and sniff a "democratic" rat behind this: How stupid and untimely would it be to expose dirt on Cain when he's not even a gop candidate? (Politico is not exactly a 'liberal' media outfit). Who is afraid of Cain right now? The OTHER gop candidates!!

    If Democrats "even wanted to" sling mud at Cain, they would wait until he is fully exposed as THE Gop Contender and then take him down in front of a national electoral audience. Why waste time and effort on a bit player when the other gop candidates are doing such a wonderfully dirty job on each other?

    October 31, 2011 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  6. Art

    He must have given them a compliment, looked at him, and didn't turn them on. That according to the rules of the workplace constitute sexual harassment. (A democrat for Cain)

    October 31, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  7. ellshere

    He wants to face his accuser? He did that once already. TAnd guess what? The powers that be found enough merit in those accusations to settle with the women in question. Be that as it may, his totalitarian stance on abortion took him right out of the running for me and a large number of voters.

    October 31, 2011 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  8. Auzzie

    Politico is a very CONSERVATIVE publication, so stop the whining about "liberals" trying to besmirch Cain's reputation. A candidate's character is very important to becoming the US President. Mr. Cain should firmly confront and address this issue as soon as possible.

    October 31, 2011 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Biggerdawg asked:
    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?
    The story originated in the conservative media. The "two women" have not come forward. They have remained silent. Others were interviewed to learn about Cain's past. Somve of them produced court documentation confirming the story surrounding the still unnamed individuals.

    October 31, 2011 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    @idb (who stated) "Pathetic press work. Look at the mans strenghts and weaknesses and cover what he stands for. That is what the people want to know."

    Believe me, there is NOTHING about this man I want to know about. He never should have been given this much media attention to begin with. Now that he has, don't blame the media because he can't take the heat. This has nothing to do with the "liberal" media ... it's his own Party that wants him out of the running, the sooner the better.

    October 31, 2011 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  11. Epidi

    And the mudslinging begins as in every election. Both parties are guilty of this tactic every time. Disgusting use of the media to win/lose votes.

    October 31, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  12. vic , nashville ,tn

    Shame on you CNN attacking Tea party candidate

    October 31, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  13. CarefulThought

    We now know more about Herman Cain before the republican primaries even start, than we ever learned about the history of Barack Obama. And if you QUESTIONED ANYTHING about HIS history, you were considered a nut case. He's sealed his college records, it took him two years to prove he was legal to even be president while there was probable cause to question that, we haven't heard from one ex girlfriend, one family member (including the two illegal aliens still living here) and not one friend except a brief roommate.

    How long until the world realizes that the media is not objective, but openly rooting for and campaigning for the Democratic Party? That makes their reporting very suspect. Browsing Cnn for politics anymore is like reading the opposing parties propaganda, not finding out what's going on.

    October 31, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  14. Cedar Rapids

    "Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told POLITICO the candidate indicated to campaign officials that he was “vaguely familiar” with the charges and that the restaurant association’s general counsel had resolved the matter."

    So basically they are saying that yes these allegations did occur and yes these women were paid. It does not prove that the allegations are actually true of course but it does mean this isnt a made up story.

    October 31, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  15. Fred Evil

    If you can't names names, then don't tell the non-story!
    I'm no fan of Cain's, but this is BS.

    October 31, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  16. Indy Jim

    The last time we had a booming economy it was at the hands of a President who was doing things to a young lady with a cigar. The same guy Arkansas Highway Patrol officers used to pull over cute girls to try to get him hooked up. Just sayin.......

    October 31, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  17. Joe Shmoe

    I'm more disturbed by Cain's support for the TARP bailouts, his desire to implement a federal sales tax, his neocon advisors, and his connections to the Fed than this story.

    October 31, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  18. Rich

    Don't go after Herm he's our ticket to get President Obama elected again in 2012...Herm is the man

    October 31, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  19. Don

    "...critics haven't had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain's ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs..."

    Ummm, no need, Cain's ideas are self-destructive at best.

    I'd prefer not to hear what a jerk he was to his employees. I'd prefer not to hear anything else about Cain...and I'd wager many agree with my point of view.

    October 31, 2011 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  20. Kevin in Atlanta

    I could care less what Herman did 10 years ago to women that may or may not exist. I want to here more about his foreign policy experience.....oh wait he doesn't have any.

    Moving along...

    October 31, 2011 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  21. Cedar Rapids

    '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'

    'Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told POLITICO the candidate indicated to campaign officials that he was “vaguely familiar” with the charges and that the restaurant association’s general counsel had resolved the matter.'

    So they are saying that allegations were made and the women paid off. Doesnt mean the allegations are true but it does show that this is not a made up story, sorry Old Farmboy.

    October 31, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  22. Subnx

    If you haven't made suggestive comments at the office something is wrong with you. That goes for the women too. I like it when women make suggestive comments. Most women like it too. It's called flirting. Some don't engage but that doesn't mean that the rest if us should stop living because they feel "uncomfortable". There is no constitutional right to feel comfortable.

    October 31, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  23. Douglas

    Ann Coulter's weighing in on this one? Sheesh... so much for credibility.

    October 31, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  24. Chris

    Unnamed source of an unnamed source of another unnamed source heard through a second hand source that Cain... blah, blah, blah. PROOF. We need PROOF. This is all crap. And what's worse is that it's the same story over and over again, just a different person. They have nothing to fear coming forward... we're in the 21st Century and we don't live in Afghanistan. It's a women's world in the good old USofA. If there's ANY merit to their stories they'll be just fine. However, if they're BS stories don't bother (which might be why we don't see any proof).

    October 31, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  25. ThinkAgain

    Cain's response sounds like he did sexually harass some woman/women, but is waiting to hear the name of the accuser(s) before he can truthfully deny the accusation or do the old "I can't remember" routine.

    October 31, 2011 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
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