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. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Sean (who stated) 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."

    Contrast this 1990's Politico story on Cain with the 1968 story CNN dug up on Romney's "faith-based" tear-jerking, near-death, car accident and then ask yourself who is pulling the strings, and why.

    October 31, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  2. Julia

    This doesn't mean much to me. I've known several people in positions of power who have been accused of things they did not do just so that it would be settled. I'm not saying he might not have abused his power, but these claims are a dime a dozen. A settlement doesn't mean much either. It's easier to make these claims go away for a fraction of the cost rather than drag the person to court.

    October 31, 2011 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  3. Chloe in Chatsworth, CA

    Coulter is right, all those Liberals at Politico are outrageous.

    October 31, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. Mike

    You know what is amazing? That when you can't bring a guy down because of policy you start slinging mud! I could care less! Stop hating! We have to get this spread the wealth nut job out of office and Mr Cain is the man to do it! And to all you people that want to spread the wealth get out! Get a job and make something of yourself!

    October 31, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. Donny

    CNN just played a clip from FOX News concerning Herman Cain's responce. I watched the entire interview in which Herman Cain denied every charge. Either CNN jumped the gun and did not watch the entire interview, OR they simply did not care about the TRUTH!

    October 31, 2011 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  6. A True Centrist

    "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."

    @ Cedar – Ok, I provided several specific examples and you provided the opinion of a left leaning organization. When did Politico come out and say they were conservative? Would a conservative site allow its writers to call the GOP racist, call the candidates "losers", "scientific neantherdals"? You, like Kravitz, have no idea what you are talking about.

    Reality check people, although I would not support Cain for President, any "news organization" can accuse someone of doing anything and claim "anonymous" sources. It's a dangerous time, as news outlets like FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC et all have specific agendas they are trying to push.

    October 31, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  7. Obama4ever

    No one would lie about something like this because if they did, it would only push cain to higher levels. So my question is simple. If this did happen, why did his lawyers make the women sign an agreement stating that they would never discuss this matter? I would never sign anything if I didn't do it. But thats just me.

    October 31, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  8. KateZ

    It never ends, does it! and the media keeps feeding the frenzy...where are these women who accused him? why are they making statements that supposedly they shouldn't be according to a settlement signed.
    this is such a waste of time...more important issues/events/and news going on.

    October 31, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  9. Billy Jr

    Here we go again!! Let's instead focus on how bad Obama's Fabian socialism really is for America. And, how "Gitback" is petty and pointless. Hey Mr. Cain, just make an overt come on to the next guy you see, and the Libs will love you!

    October 31, 2011 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. Sharon

    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 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  11. Randy In Tennessee

    Herman Cain just did a exclusive interview on Fox to explain the base less charges against him from over 20 years ago. As I switched to CNN I picked up David Gerkin and the host working hard to bury Herman Cain. They played for the viewers the second question in the Fox interview and followed up with comments that he dodged the question on the base less charges. What a lie from CNN and what bias reporting. This has to be the bottom of the barrel. I had been warned about the bias from CNN but had no actual proof. Well I just saw and heard it in the worst of worst reporting ever. As Mr Cain has now become the real front runner in all polls and is leading Perry in Texas he will get more of this crap. Good Luck!

    October 31, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. pig in a poke

    The Republican Establishment is trying hard to make sure one of their candidates win the primaries. When you see Karl Rove and Politico frothing at the mouth over unsubstantiated claims, you know you are on the right track.

    It’s time that we as Americans get rid of both the Republican and Democrat political Elites.

    October 31, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  13. Charlie from the North

    You know how they used to have that saying: If you can remember the 60s you weren't really there. Well if you didn't misbehave in the 90s are you sure you were there?
    It is all about what he is doing now. I think he gets a pass on this. I don't like him and I am sick of him getting a "pass" on his dangerously stupid ideas but as far as this "scandal" goes it is not one. Let's beat this dude where he deserves it. On the issues.

    October 31, 2011 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  14. Naimka

    They are unsubstantiated allegations from 20 years ago. Just a reporter trying to dig up dirt.

    October 31, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  15. sensible

    .....maybe he was just joking??????

    October 31, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  16. cc

    Two comments. First, I believe Mr. Cain said, "I have a sense of humor and some people have a problem with that." That sounds like he said something offensive. Then he said, "Herman be Herman". What is with American politicians and their aggressive determination to "talk ignernt". Like they were spawned from the men of "Deliverance." Bush insisted on dropping the "ing" from the end of words. As does Obama. (Now all American TV anchors are doing...including Blitzer and Cooper on CNN) Bush refused to pronounce "nuclear" correctly. And now Cain is going to make it fashionable to speak in the wrong verb tense. These are small things that seem to indicate America is taking pride in pulling its leaders from the bottom of the barrel.

    October 31, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  17. pccel

    @Brannon....brillant???? You're not serious, are you?

    October 31, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. hannah

    This is much like the Clarence Thomas event and we all know how that turned out. And Thomas is the worst SC judge we've ever had sitting on the bench. it seems that with the right wing that it's okay when their people do it, but not when the other side does. Gingrich has a checkered past as well, but nobody talks about that; he is such a crook.

    October 31, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Obama4ever

    Cain has the Michael Jackson syndrome. Thinks he do whatever he wants to people and pay money to stay out of trouble. It does not matter 20 years, 20 days or 20 minutes, wrong is wrong PERIOD, but I bet if this was one of his supporters daughters it would be a whole different matter.

    October 31, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  20. disgusted taxpayer

    Although I despise workplace harassment, of any kind, I really don't want to hear these kinds of allegations in a political campaign. Too easy to smear someone with vague rumors, innuendo, etc. And frankly, unless convicted of mugging and assaulting someone the LESS we all hear about a candidate's sex life, flirting habits, etc, and more about their ideas, the better.!!!!!

    October 31, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  21. Mr. Melvin

    And remember how Rand Paul was accused (falsely) of kidnapping women and making them pray to Aqua Buddha? Everyone reported it, but not everyone reported that the lady retracted her accustation!
    I am no fan of Mr. Federal Reserve just-another-puppet Herman Cain, but you have to be smart about this and wait until facts come out. Are you all so gullible and forget that politics are dirty, it's campaign season, and he's in the lead? Smarten up folks.

    October 31, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  22. kravitz

    Politico is owned by conservative republicans, as is becoming quite well known. Now, the situation may have involved cultural differences or bawdy behaviour, but clearly the women didn't bring forth the story. Politico investigated, found them, and because of the non-disclosure, chose not to print their names. They're not 'nameless sources.' Even Cain would understand both parties in the settlement would have to agree they could talk now...or his side would have to violate the terms.

    October 31, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  23. Phil

    The NRA swept this under the rug – made the ladies sign a gag order. They never briefed the board – the attorney is still with the NRA, maybe they will can him for covering this up – the board legally and morally should have been informed. This kind of action happens ALL THE TIME in the industry which is loaded with men who behave badly. I know I am a 36 year veteran of the industry. Hermain Cain today is still being evassive and defering to the NRA. I bet his wife never knew this was going on. He will just keep claiming he did not know as though that is an excuse. Shame on the NRA for not supporting the victim!
    He is just as corupt as any politician, the next scandal is funny business with his campaign finances and the diversion of dollars to his campaign that were not disclosed.
    His business experience is a joke. He is far from the smartest person in the room (I know people who worked with him at all levels of his restaurant tenure). Godfathers was never a major chain – not too impressive a gig.
    There are just too many red flags about this guy.
    I am a democrat and if we are going to have a Republican President, I just hope it is someone with morals and character like Mitt Romeny.

    October 31, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  24. EffortPA

    Let's see, you are getting sued for sexual harassment, the NRA agrees and pays for a settlement, the suit goes away and you are not aware that there was a settlement? Is that one of his jokes again?

    October 31, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Maybe the real story is where did they money come from that was used for the hush money? Did it come out of Cain's pocket, or was it expensed out of the NRA's accounts? Expensing it would suggest that the cost was eventually claimed as a "business expense," which we would mean that "We The People" paid for it in the form of a tax deduction.

    October 31, 2011 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
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