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. Bresson

    I love how he blames "liberals" when 1. This kind of mud slinging is classic republican tactics and 2. The GOP frontrunners are the most threatened by Cain right now. So basically his republican rivals have both motive and experience to do throw such a thing onto this man but he still blames the left. Typical...

    October 31, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. Ben

    Where there is smoke there is fire. Your don't "buy off" someone unless you're guilty.

    October 31, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. Thor

    It seems like the two women were satisfied at the time with getting money. ...And they were satisfied with that! They got paid for their trouble... not unlike other women who get paid for their trouble on a street corner. I think we desparately need to get back to the meat of the real problem. Can Herman Cain can fix our economic business in America effectively? Can Herman Cain unite the House and the Senate to actually function? Is Herman Cain willing to push the button? Can Herman Cain create business opportunities to cause job creation and growth in the United States of America?

    October 31, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. DBalt

    If it was a "lie" then why did he authorize the trade association he was executive director of to pay them off with "five figure" checks? If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...pretty sure it's a duck.

    There is a growing trend with this guy now that people are actually listening to the rantings coming out of his mouth. He makes a crazy statement, then when he catches flack..."Oh, it was just a joke." I'm pretty sure Iran, North Korea, China, Pakistan, etc. aren't looking for jokes.

    This guy is a loose cannon who doesn't realize consistency in positions and honesty matters to Americans. It's one thing to run a chain of pizza joints where he could make decisions in a void/vacuum, regardless of what anyone else feels, and where you can change decisions whenever you's another where it's government where checks, balances and process are built into the system and you do not get to just do whatever you want. The job of president is infinitely more challenging than running a modest sized company. If he can't stand the heat now...get out of the kitchen already.

    While I have been a supporter of the president (and I'm a former Republican), for our country's sake I would like to have a sound Republican candidate as an option to the president – while I of course have not made my mind up, I can assure you I will vote for the president if a looney-tune like this guy is the nominee.

    October 31, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Jimi

    I won't vote for Cain but this is a very poor story on the face of it and if it cannot be factually substantiated CNN and Politico should publish a retraction on their front page

    October 31, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. ST

    Something which happened a decade ago does not bother me at all as I know it will not affect me. What I really care is someone who has made flip-flopping as his habit. It is a dangerous character which even if he will change his mind a little bit, I will know, here he goes again.

    October 31, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  7. shannon g

    If he if he falsely accused as he stated and the media is making this up, then he has the right to sue on slander charges. So let's see what his next move will be if this is a made up story.

    October 31, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. Jenna NYC

    I wouldn't vote for Herman Cain either. His 9-9-9 plan doesn't work, and he has no legislative or foreign policy experience. If the company paid off those women in 5 figures, it tells me it doesn't pass the smell test, no matter what Herm says. Huntsman is the smartest, best candidate.

    October 31, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  9. dman

    I'm not a big fan of the Grand Old Phony party, but to throw unsubstantiated innuendo at one of their candidates is ridiculous. There should be some real evidence from non-anonymous sources, before such allegations should be taken seriously.

    October 31, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  10. jeff

    Oh come on. If there is not conviction by the government's own rules is he not innocent?!

    October 31, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. Willy

    Well, this is politics. Let’s get all the dirt out in the open so we can look at it. Bill Clinton comes to mind and all the allegations of him having woman in his hotel rooms many different times. Still, many people say he was a great president. Why is this an issue? Cain's supporters will probably not believe it and others who lived Bill Clinton will not care.

    October 31, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. Ed

    This happened to me. I was falsely accused by a female employee who I had disciplined. I was treated as guilty before proven innocent and had to endure harsh questioning from HR. It was humiliating. Sadly a very small segment of the female work force try to establish that they will file a complaint if they are not allowed to carry on as they please....without proof this man should be presumed innocent.

    October 31, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. bdl1978

    I like how people are so quick to believe something. Anyone can accuse someone of something but it doesn't make it true. Innocent until proven guilty

    October 31, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  14. aspires

    This sounds like another "high tech lynching" if you ask me.

    October 31, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Isn't Politico considered a right-leaning media tool?
    Why are some of you asserting that this was dug up by the Left?
    And what is it with you guys munching-out on your 'frontrunner'?
    Don't you want him to continue to rank top dog in the polls, or is it Romney's turn now?

    October 31, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  16. BillyBob117

    Once again, the dims/iibs try to destroy a black man who does not bow to them. I will still vote for him. And the state run media is desperatly trying to draw attention away from the loser in the WH. It is the same as the liberal well known cheater and drug user Teddy, told the world how evil Thomas was. We the People will not be detracted from kicking the great imposter and the moocher out of our House.

    October 31, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  17. The Truth

    Okay, so one of Cain's rivals pay the two women to defer the costs that may arise out of their breach of the NDA's they signed, and let's hear their allegations. Sounds rather straightforward. Cain claims there are no accusers, so let's get the accusers out in public and we can watch the slippery slope continue from "unsourced allegations" to "did not harass anyone" to "???".

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

    People should not vote against Mr. Cain due to these allegations because they might not be true. But what is true, he is completely out of touch with the average person and he doesn't care! Oh, and he simply not smart engough to be president! That's why people should vote against him!

    October 31, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  19. carolae

    20 years later, this finally comes out now??? Another smear tactic by the opponents. They're as bad as the lies in the Enquirer and Globe magazines. I can understand if this allegation was recent, but 20 plus years later????

    October 31, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. BEn275

    Oh the libs arent behind this, the good ol' boys who worked hard for three years to demonize Obama are not moving to push Cain out of the way. They aren't going to let another black man in office.

    October 31, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Clinton was a wonderful President, and he molested more women than Cain ever could. "

    There's a difference between the consensual silliness Clinton engaged in with Lewinsky and the non-consensual, uninvited stuff Cain is accused of. False equialencies are evidence of extremely lazy thinking.

    October 31, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. Patriot Awesome

    I'm not a Cain supporter by any means, but this is clearly a hit job and irrelevant. There are plenty of reasons not to nominate Cain.

    October 31, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. Wobbles

    "Cain said he was not aware of any settlement."
    Seems like something you'd remember one way or the other.
    When someone says they are "not aware of any settlement"
    you can bet the bank there was a settlement.

    October 31, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. LWJR

    WELCOME to the BIG LEAGUES Herman. They hired two false witnesses to bring JESUS Down too. The big question? Who hired 'em? Most likely answer: same folks who brought Clarence Thomas down.

    October 31, 2011 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  25. Mike kerns

    Yeah right he just gave those girls five figure cash settlements out of the goodness of his heart? We believe you Cain.

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