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. sequoia

    Of course, he blames the meeeeeedia. Ever notice how right-wingers are always ALWAYS victims?

    October 31, 2011 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. steve

    stick a fork in the pizza man, he's done.

    October 31, 2011 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  3. Luis Gonzalez

    Liberals are desperate digging up dirt on the Republican Presidential Candidates, especially on front runner Herman Cain. Leaders are targets for those not sharing the same values and beliefs. The accussations against Herman Cain are just that, it does not taken away the leadership potential Herman Cain has to lead our country.

    October 31, 2011 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  4. lauradet

    Oh, boy! Not another Clarence Thomas.

    October 31, 2011 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  5. NVa Native

    Cain seems so reasonable, respectful, and kind I could never see him trying to take something he wants? .....yea right.

    October 31, 2011 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  6. Lolo

    Unlike you conservatives, we so called liberals just do not vote for anyone because of color, We want a very intelligent individual to represent America. Look at your parade of candidates today. You are using Cain because he is black, we will not vote for him because he is not intelligent and does not think for himself. Look at how he panders to the tea partiers to get their votes. He is a sell-out. The first thing you do is blame the liberal media. Your party is eating their own, but you will vote for anyone or anything to make sure that President Obama is only a one-term president, and deep down inside you will not vote for Cain because of his race but you will not admit it. What you do in the dark sure comes to light and the world sees exactly who the GOP/Tea partiers are.

    October 31, 2011 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. NVa Native

    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."
    In the world of fox media pushing lies & misinformation with "some one said" – while Corporate News Network (CNN) wants a bigger piece of the ratings – because that's how fox got where it is – can you say "yes we can".

    October 31, 2011 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  8. Nevis

    Don't blame the Dems for this one. The Republicans are starting to eat their young.

    October 31, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  9. Rich

    this will help Cain with the "born again" people that say the woman should be submissive to the man...Go Herm your scoring points with the tea party also...

    October 31, 2011 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Mudracking is wrote:
    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.
    So, if the man settled a potential civil case (let's ignore potential criminal issues and pressing of charges) before it ever reached court, then it doesn't matter. That's the stereotypical attitude that I've noticed how many liberals regard conservatives. "If you can buy your way out of it, then everything is okay and legitimate."

    So, if a guy commits a crime, but then buys off his victims/accusers, then that makes him a good guy, and everything is okay?!? Thanks for pointing out to America why conservatives and Republicans are totally unfit to serve public office.

    You also keep voicing a common misconception that a couple of "accusers" actually came forward and spoke to Politico. No accusers came forward. Politico claims to have seen or have copies of *court documents* that support the veracity of the story.

    October 31, 2011 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  11. kitty

    to brannon – uncorrupted? you've got to be kidding me!! he was a lobbyist. and frankly there is NO ONE in washington or near it who hasn't been corrupted by some kind of crap or another. cant anyone ever just do something without claiming its "the other" party launching dirt attack. they are all dirty politicians. regardless of party.

    October 31, 2011 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I have'nt heard him deny it.
    Why does he need to to know who the accusers are BEFORE denying?
    Either he Clarence Thomased himself or not.
    Ultimately,though, he should'nt bother addressing this or any other accusation that may pop up, as his candidacy is bogus and he's not going anyhwere but home.
    Polls or no polls, he's BEEN done.

    October 31, 2011 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  13. thomas

    @ lauradet
    Oh, boy! Not another Clarence Thomas.

    Why not !

    October 31, 2011 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. tysu

    Any person seeking to guide a Country out off chaos should have their self-guidance in-checked first. How can you lead a Nation when your personal self- leadership skills lack honorable morality, preparation, and honesty? We all make mistakes and some worse than others, however a leader admits to those mistakes and when in the public eye seeking public approval to lead a Nation, they acknowledge those mistakes with immediate transparency and then moves on to lead.

    October 31, 2011 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  15. Rich

    Who cares about Herms past.Just run him he'll do a fine job of getting our pres elected to a second term.Run Herm Run!

    October 31, 2011 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. SaintM

    Hmmm–where there's smoke, there's fire. If they were paid to leave the organization–then this does suggest some wrong doing. In politics–this is expected–remember Gennifer Flowers? I'm more interested to hear about Rick Perry's indiscretions–as many Texans who have blogged have said that in his case, it is just "business as usual".

    October 31, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. anon

    I wonder what Bill Clinton has to say about any of this?

    October 31, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. Sean

    wonder how much "Politico" paid them for this story. Anything from Politico has a liberal bias, I take any "news" from them with a grain of salt.

    October 31, 2011 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. once upon a horse

    Cain made the number one error a candidate can sure there are NO skeletons in your closet no matter how far back they might be,

    October 31, 2011 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. Democrat Party - leftist "progressive" socialist communist losers hellbent on destroying the USA

    If Bill Clinton's behavior in the Whitehouse wasn't an issue, why is this an issue? As usual, the leftists trying to smear good people with stuff that they would otherwise claim is irrellevant if one of their darlings is involved. I think the majority of the American people ar ewell aware of these smear tactics and don't listen to them.

    October 31, 2011 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  21. Mike

    Why does this not surprise me . . . . ?

    October 31, 2011 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  22. rh

    Anyone who is making a big deal of this, assuming it is "innuendo" only, has NO IDEA what takes place day-to-day in many workplaces. Inappropriate brushing against women, comments in front of others, are par for the course.

    As for "asking to come to his hotel room", when you are in business meetings, it isn't uncommon to ask a colleague to meet with you in a hotel room. Yes, women should probably say "no" just in case, but that's a sad fact not an indication of a sexual nature. What if he asked a guy to come to his hotel room, does that mean he is gay?

    October 31, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  23. pig in a poke

    POLITICO is now considered a Newspapar ?

    Just more slease and slime from the marxist left. Can't fight his words so we must slander him to death.

    October 31, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  24. Lee Tutt

    Who is perfect these days, give the man a break..

    October 31, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. Wylie Mike

    A video title states that " Politico says it gave Cain 10 days to respond". Isn't that blackmail?
    Anyone running for President should expect to be vetted. Where was all this vetting when Obama ran in 2008?

    Apparently one sure way to get someone with a conscience to give up to find some way to shame them into submission.

    Herman should keep his humor and joke that he will have to decline any offer to join the Gentleman's Club for Presidents that Bill Clinton frequented.

    October 31, 2011 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
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