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. Democrat Party - leftist "progressive" socialist communist losers hellbent on destroying the USA

    Who cares? The real issue is that he is clueless and dangerous
    I agree and this is exactly why Obama has to get the heave ho in 2012. Makes a nice protest chant... "Heave ho, Obama's gotta GO!"

    October 31, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  2. excitizen

    News article about Cain's campaign funding problems: kind of tells you all you want to know about Cain.

    "Block had prior campaign-law troubles. He was banned for several years from involvement in campaigns after Wisconsin election officials accused him of illegally coordinating the judicial candidate's campaign he was running with outside groups. Block settled without admitting guilt.

    Block has been associated with the political network created by the Koch Brothers as well. He headed Wisconsin's branch of Americans for Prosperity, the group underwritten by the Kochs."

    October 31, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  3. Fire Coach K

    He's a "man with a plan," all right - a plan that would raise taxes on 84% of Americans while drastically lowering them on the ultra-rich.

    October 31, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  4. Jrdz

    This is from a man who is pushing his economic plan that he got from a video game so when he was fooling around with women on the side did he think he was playing Vice City Grand Theft Auto? Also what is with the smoking guy was he trying to be cool the the smoking man in the X Files?

    October 31, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Come to think of it, didn't the leftist MSM do this very same thing to John McCain in 2008? False accusations, never proven but put them out there anyways to intentionally damage a persons reputation."

    Riiiight. And the "lberal MSM conspiracy" totally ignored and never once uncritically broadcast all the nonsense from the GOP/Teatrolls about Obama's birth certificate, claims taht he was born in Kenya, accusations that he was a secret muslim trying to install sharia law in the US, weird claims that he somehow gave up his US citizenship while in school in Indonesia, etc etc etc. Never happened. They totally ignored all of it instead of nationally disseminating those lies and conspiracy theories without a word or critical thought or challenging the imbeciles making those accusations.

    October 31, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. Magic

    Dang it! I want the media to stop harassing Cain. The Republicans need to nominate this man. That way, Obama will win for sure in 2012!!!

    October 31, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. Hector

    Something just doesn't smell right. If you are nor guilty of this matter then why when asked Cain didn't just say "NO" and not run around the issue? Something is not right. I really think Cain is not telling the truth! Can't blame Cains actions on the Liberal press or on anyone but Cain...the morality police!!!!

    October 31, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. Chedar

    Sounds like the "Anita Hill" scandal in the cooking heh heh! Ask justice Clarence Thomas. Bad bad boys hah!

    October 31, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  9. Palin 2112

    Last week he claimed that he knew of no such allegations, now he is saying that it was settled long ago. So was he lying last week or is he lying now? Both comments cannot be true.

    October 31, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. momomiester

    So CNN doesn't say anything negative on Che Obama yet they attack this guy. Used to be if you attacked Obama you were a racist. Now it is ok to attack Cain. This is why liberals are hypocrites and should just jump in front of a subway train and make the world a better place.

    October 31, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  11. demogal

    Poor Ann Coulter; she has a hard time getting her name and face in the media these days. "High-tech lynching" indeed. Not true of the Clarence Thompson debacle and not true now. These allegations may or may not deserve attention, but none of this has anything to do with race.

    October 31, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  12. jecd

    The accusers cannot come forward as they signed a "non-disclosure" at the time of settlement. Which means they can never discuss it publically.

    October 31, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  13. jorge washinsen

    what ever he did is no worse than letting censors take over a news organization,either company, or government.

    October 31, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. James PDX

    "I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association and I say falsely because it turned out after the investigation to be baseless."

    "separation packages that were in the five-figure range,"

    Apparently, the National Restaurant Association disagrees with Mr. Cain and felt the allegations held enough merit to pay out 5 figures – twice. Do money and power lead to corruption, or does corruption lead to money and power? Either way, Cain remains an unviable candidate.

    October 31, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. BK

    Actually, the Democratic party wouldn't be spreading rumors like this because they really REALLY want Cain to beat Romney, as Romney is the only present Republican candidate that polls well vs Obama.

    October 31, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  16. Jake

    it's ok...he's a Born Again Christian, all past is forgiven! he is free to lead the conservative movement into the future!

    October 31, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. svscnn

    Didn't seem to stop Bill Clinton or Clarence Thomas from getting into their respective jobs. I'd rather people focus on what they like/dislike with Herman Cain's "plan" than start relying on character judgments.

    October 31, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  18. jtt

    The Republicans went on FOREVER about Clinton and that was consensual. Its over. He wont survive this. Not that he was electable anyway.

    October 31, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  19. Dave, Central Illinois

    Figures. A black man break the liberal mold and he is lynched by the Lib hacks in the media. Liberals are racists and believe in genocide against the unborn.

    October 31, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. abby1

    The conservative talking heads are using the standard responses, "it's the liberal media fault", "it's Obama's fault", or "this is racism of a conservative black man". Why can't the conservative live by the rhetoric they spew, such as be accountable for your own actions and having family values? They like to blame everyone else if things do not go in their favor. They are a bunch of hypocrites.

    October 31, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  21. Brian in DC

    SOP of the Dems. If you can't attack the man, attack his character.

    October 31, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  22. Matt

    What is with the Clarence Thomas comparison. Just because he is an African American that has been accused (operative word) of harassment, automatically classifies himself as a "Clarence Thomas". What kind of a racist idiot are you? I find it highly suspect that this is coming out right now – which to me tells me nothing. Sorry folks, I'm not buying it.

    October 31, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  23. detada

    I do not support Cain at all, but Politico or anyone else reporting this story should either produce some real evidence or move on.

    October 31, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. RichP

    OK, day two, lets see how many days the mainstream liberals beat this dead horse. I figure they will go at least a month.

    October 31, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. Micheal

    If this was put out there by liberals, it would have been saved until after he won the GOP nomination. Most likely the sources in this story come from one of the other GOP candidates. My money is on Rick Perry. He stands to gain the most from it because Cain's support came from Perry's decline.

    October 31, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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