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

    "A True Centrist

    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?"

    The same Politico that was accused by the liberal 'media matters' as having a republican slant, and Politico came out and said yeah, ok, thats probably fair........yeah, that Politico.

    October 31, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  2. Chris

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

    @FedUpWithLife... ha ha ha! That's exactly what I said about Obama... how ironic! Phew... what a small world.

    October 31, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  3. Sonny

    American politicians, religious preachers/clergymen or famous people always deny anything but later on admit if it is proved.

    October 31, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  4. 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?'

    October 31, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  5. Jamie Hendrickson

    First let me say I like Cain...but the answer can only be YES or NO.

    October 31, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  6. Tim

    It is funny to read some of the comments here. First, the Dems are not going to spend the money or effort on one GOP candidate right now, because it is TOO EARLY. It is funny how so many don't understand that the GOP are still in the pre-primary stage so why spend money going after one candidate. This accusation is nothing out of the normal for political races which is a shame because unless you are convicted then leave it in the pass. Also, there is probably a gag order on speaking about the incident which led to the pay out. If you get a pay out, you will have to sign some type of confidentiality agreement for sure.

    October 31, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  7. Neil

    Yesterday night Geraldo – FOX TV asked cain's campaign VP to say its a lie and cain never molested or paid any hush money, cains manager/VP never ever said that was a lie. Geraldo told him if he doesn't say its a lie, it will be all over news papers and he must say its a lie that guy was talking about media but never said its a lie. Proves Cain did molest and paid hush money. This is the biggest joke of the century a guy who molests, 999 to 909, electic fence to can abort to no abortion. What kind of talent does GOP have? Don't they do background check on the guy running to be president? For companies we do a professional background check.

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

    Welcome to politicals Mr. Cain. Obama was called a Muslim sleeper agent despite absolutely no evidence at all – not even a formal complaint.

    October 31, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  9. westward

    Where are the accusers? No accusers = no story.

    October 31, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  10. WhereIsPalin

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

    Hey Coulter.....remember Bill Clinton?

    October 31, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. Luke Brown

    I don't what happened, but he is reacting like a very guilty person. Why does he need to know who the employees are? So he can attack them, vilify them, and humiliate them further?

    Mr. Cain has already acknowledged that some kind of incidents took place in the past and he even referred the media to the NRA's legal counsel. He knows who the women are. They were both paid a settlement and left the organization. Trust me, a CEO doesn't forget anything like that. He is just trying to create a diversion from the real issue.

    October 31, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  12. rob

    He is arrogant and stupid, nonsense 9-9-9 "saved" godfathers simply by closing 50% OF THEIR STORES...OH THAT'S ORIGINAL!!! This behavior fits a narsistic, maglomaniac. He's an idiot.

    October 31, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  13. Karmic Tips

    CAIN's political team/ media response was was really appropriate saying that this ia cheap trick by Washington Dc media and even other who are no match to his ideas and genuine thinking he is putting behind on how to save the economy and may be they are now fearing that CAIN is unstoppable from getting a clear nomination.

    October 31, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  14. caintrainfullspeed

    "So, do you still beat your wife?" HAHAHA - The INTELLIGENT THINKERS MOVEMENT KEEPS GOING! Y'all think that Cain is some newbie to this rodeo? Y'all haven't seen anything yet! Stories like this should be a reminder to everyone as to how SCARED the libs are when it comes to the Cain Train. Hit 'em hard Herm!

    October 31, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  15. kinglywarrior

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

    LOL they haven't? I think it's been made plenty clear that his "plan" is poor and he can't even explain it or where he got it. And isn't he campaigning to JOIN the "Washington establishment"?

    October 31, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  16. Annonymous

    Unfortunately, I do know these allegations to be true. He did it to a very very close friend of mine. We worked with Herman years ago at Godfathers.

    October 31, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  17. Realist

    Cain's advisors: "We need damage control, now!"

    October 31, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  18. tready

    I have come to expect this kind of thing from the current administration, anyone that starts being more popular than the 'king' gets slandered , then have to endure it, Ron Paul just won the straw polls what happens when his popularity rises..same with palin,perry, etc...etc...

    October 31, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. Usingthe RaceCard

    It's amazing how Coulter's response is placing blame on the Liberals when the source has brought this item forward with good backup information! Therefore, it sure appears to be Clear-Cut at this point. And further worthy of note is her making this into a Black issue, using the race card! Can you imagine! IMHO, this case is certainly worthy of further investigation to assure that all the facts are brought out, with the actual women coming forward, especially since Cain appears to be a Conservative with certain values. People criticize President Clinton but they must remember that there was nothing brought out, like this matter, BEFORE he became President that was worthy of note. In this case, this story brings out plenty which should make everyone think first instead of blindly trying to cover the story up and sweep it under the rug.

    October 31, 2011 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  20. Frank

    You stick your head out too far and someone WILL come along to chop it off.

    No one with any sense of sanity goes into politics because any bad thing he ever did WILL come back to haunt him. I'm not defending Cain. I'm only saying that we live in crappy times.

    October 31, 2011 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. concerned citizen

    How funny is it that these allegations are coming out now?

    October 31, 2011 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. GeneW

    I'm not a big fan of Cain but something about this just doesn't smell right. I'm skeptical of any allegations that come from "anonymous" third party sources. If these allegations are true, I want to hear it from the victims. Cain deserves a right to face his accusers. I wouldn't be suprised the least bit is this is a attempt by the Romney or Perry campaigns to knock this guy down a few pegs.

    October 31, 2011 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  23. w l jones

    I have seen a two years looking at an woman other than his mother with fasination. Said enough.

    October 31, 2011 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  24. Eagle Eye

    Why wasn't this brought up earlier while Hermen Cain started campaigning?. I can tell everyone why it's one day before the real campaigning starts. I commented last week that starting in November that all the gloves would come off well the gloves have come off on Herman Cain. The liberal press is now going to go after the candidates who are running for President. The liberal press will decide who will win the Republician nomination. Everything that has happend in the passed was all practice now it's for keeps. The liberal press is going to attack Mitt Romeny, Michelle Bachman, Rich Santorum, Newt, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman and who ever else in it. Now this is for all the marbles and who is going to be the next President.

    October 31, 2011 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  25. Chut Pata

    This item by Republican controlled conservative media politico proves that Republican party has become such a big bigot that they can not even tolerate black people of their own party.

    October 31, 2011 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
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