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. Justice786

    Herman Cain is acting too defensively and hiding behind his staff and forum debate rules. We do not need another Clinton in office–if this is proven true.

    October 31, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. Truman Guy

    These charges are pure rubbish. I am not even a Republican. All this kind of stuff comes out after someone becomes a front runner. Give the guy a break. We need to talk about issues and not personality. This stuff is so stupid.

    October 31, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. david

    Cain has become more famous do to the media and the attacks. I see and hear more about Cain than I do the other Republicans it is sad that there own party will attack there own evidently he is doing something right if Cain wasn't why are they attacking him.

    October 31, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Burbank

    Although I'm not believing this story until I hear something a little more concrete, I wouldn't be suprised at all. There is something not quite right about this guy. He seems to be putting on a smiley face for the public trying to get the shallow American Idol votes and I don't think it's the real Herman Cail we are seeing.

    October 31, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  5. candace lane

    CNN is disgusting for running a story that isn't even a story just to slander Cain. What tabloid journalism. So being falsely accused of something now can ruin your chances at the white house????? Pathetic.

    October 31, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. CNNGetReal

    Unlike liberals who defended Clinton to the death if Cain were guilty it would eliminate him from my list of candidates.

    October 31, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. Geoffmag

    Its very common for executives to be accused of all kinds of things in the setting of a discipline or termination so In the absence of more subsatnce its a non starter. That said for Faux news and the conservatives to be bleating about a high tech lynching after spending years chasing after Bill Clinton and a host of other democrats for similar things is pure hypocrisy. In addtion it is most likely that this little bit of dirt was dug up and leaked to Politico by a competing republican campaign. In the end there are planty of things not to like about Herman Cain without some petty employment dispute two decades ago.

    October 31, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. Eric

    "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." Wouldn't he know, separate from the investigation, whether or not the claims were baseless? I smell a liar....

    October 31, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. Sharonkathleen

    Cain is now at the top of the GOP rivals and someone is playing dirty.. Let's see.. Perry's campaign had hired Karl Rove.. Do ya think this could be a Rove tactic.. or a student of Rove's .. Remember how John McCain got thrown under the bus.. Well.. my guess Cain is the victim here..

    October 31, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. rob

    If he were a liberal or better yet, this story was out there about Obama in 2008 ,CNN would not say a word about it other than to protect him and cast aspursions on whomever was making the charge. The double standard is as always stunning from ther liberal media nad the Democrats. As a Black person in politics in this country, you are simply not allowed to have any other opinions than those aspoused by the liberal victimization crowd. I hope Cain wins the nomination and we are treated to a general campaign pitting two men of color with polar opposite world views. The liberals will go crazy. Although voters will have to vote for either black candidate, the liberals will somehow find a way to say Cain voters are racists.

    October 31, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  11. mark

    CNN is that the best you can do? Repeat a story from the politico? It is interesting to see the libs attack the candidates character and not even look at Obama, but they said it was comming as Obama can't run on his record. I would like to see these accusers and hear what they have to say but we will just get hearsay unlike Obama and Holder and the energy dept who get pushed aside and under the rug, they didn't do anything or know anything about solyndra, the car maker, and fast and furious. ROFLMAO. The stupidity abounds on the left. Oh and they said there is another green company that got millions of tax dollars and stimulus going bankrupt. Just to funny. Look up the cost of solar and the return, if it weren't for govt. subsidies there would be no returns.

    October 31, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Arie

    All I say is a jackpot hit those 2 ladies again, They are found and being bribed to the full extent by 2 parties with our tax $$. Happy Halloween

    October 31, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. mike smith

    Well, at least we are making progress. He now admits he was accused. Next, we he will finally admit he paid them a settlement amount to prove his innocence.

    October 31, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. found

    Guess I know who I want to vote for... digging things up that are almost 20 years old... shame on the reporters

    October 31, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. rob

    @BRANNON, Cain is not brilliant, the women wona settlement based on his behavior! He "SAVED" godfathers simply be closing 50% of the real original thinking. Don't "fix it" downsize. SOunds like a real good bussiness man.

    October 31, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. CaptainOhio

    You're getting too close to the nomination and they are getting worried, weather the storm and stay strong against the haters. The media is trying to control the outcome again

    October 31, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  17. Bob

    I love his response this morning when he was asked if there was a cash settlement, and he said, I don't know, but if there was, I hope it wasn't much, because nothing happened.

    October 31, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. KoraDewDuh

    yep, hes as guilty as they come. he plays the race vs race card, the rich vs poor card, the cancer survivor card, then has cigarettes in his campaign, now this nonsense?

    Hes a walking contradiction and any way you sum it all up, hes bad news.

    October 31, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  19. strikeforce1

    Hey Herman, you said to bring you proof....? If you paid out 2 women 5 figure checks there is your proof! If I never did anything why would I pay out? This guy definately does not need to be our next president. This guy should be named reverend do wrong.

    October 31, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  20. GSMITH

    The Democratic Party and the Lamestream Media are racist, hateful, liars and hypocrites. They must be destroyed immediatley and bring some sense back to America. They need to be accounted for there disgusting actions

    October 31, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  21. mike

    It's really unimportant. The press is going to find something to whine about with anyone being the front runner for the republican party. It's just Cain's turn.

    October 31, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. Jimmy

    I can just tell he's lieing by watching his lips move.

    October 31, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  23. CBR

    Mr. Cain is now receiving much more press about the story than necessary. Mr. Cain needed to speak about the story first and then stop talking about it. The story is part of his history and he needed to be upfront about the story. By having others speak for him he upped the interest.

    Ann Coulter is not one who should speak about how candidates are treated. Just listen to one of her rants and you know instantly that she is capable of spewing extremely nasty and negative remarks. She gives the Conservatives bad press and they would do well to avoid giving her a chance to speak.

    October 31, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. PJ

    I am sure Romney's staff are behind this!!!!!

    October 31, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. Erin

    Democrats didn't bring this issue up.. and they're not the ones behind this. They'd be FOOLISH to do so.. it'd be much smarter to wait until August, 2012 before the GENERAL election to let this fall.

    No, Mr. Romney, Mr. Perry or Mrs. Bachman are much more likely suspects.. they have a lot more to gain at this point then any democrat.

    October 31, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
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