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. Huh?!

    Some of you conservatives aen't the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree. Why would the liberals waste an opportunity like this? ANY decent political consultant would tell you that this sort of thing is sprung on a cnadidate *shortly before the election.* Seriously, ask Karl Rove. Timing is everything. You bring this up just long eneough before the election to get the word out but not long enough to enable your oponent to put out the fire. It's called an "October surprise" for a reason.

    The other question is why would they want to push Cain out of the way? His 9-9-9 plan has been *proven* to cost the middle class more and benefit only the wealthy. And it even *further* benefits Wall Street by exempting stock income from being counted as income! Can't you just *see* Obama's peope drooling at the thought of debating this guy?! Bring it on!

    There's only one or two in the entire Republican candidate list that might give Obama a run for his monent and Cain isn't one of them.

    October 31, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. Henry

    I don't want Cain to be president, but I don't want him getting hosed by a crazy media frenzy either. Forget this harassment crap.

    October 31, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  3. Barack

    Have you guys not seen his weird smile on the commercial? He clearly has some involvement with this. If you want to support a black candidate, vote for me.

    October 31, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  4. Bruce

    This was probably leaked by Cain's campaign because it will cause his supporters to circle the wagons, and the GOP loves the good ol' boys-will-be-boys kinda boys.

    This might be enough to get the GOP in the south to forget he's black! šŸ˜›

    October 31, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  5. Corey

    Call me crazy but why would anyone who (falsely accuses someone) receive a 5 figure separation packages if nothing happened? It sounds to me like they were bought off.

    October 31, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  6. westward

    Does it even matter? Even the GOP front-runners are no where near credible candidates, even without a scandal – whether real OR drummed up by Rick Perry's worthless team of bozos.

    October 31, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  7. calvin

    well the news has struck. If there not a story they will good back to his birth if nessary. look at Obama. the big thing here the new will stand up for Obama. not cain. both are black american so what the big draw back for cain he a republican. If he was a baby killing tax raising waste of money it would be a non news story. lets hope the news company go back to report the new and not make it.

    October 31, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  8. Alice

    Chances are the two women are precluded from coming forward by confidentiality provisions in their settlement agreements.

    October 31, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  9. catwill

    There is nothing that offends me more than a person who is found to maybe have done wrong then they blame the news and call it the vilest names like a "tec L". Innocent until proven guilty but if these women were paid they probably signed a binding agreement not to discuss it or forfeit the payment. I am sure someone would pay the difference if the women would break the agreement, just saying.

    October 31, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  10. Behonest

    Never care for the guy. Things that came of of his mouth, make him sounds like an idiot; but why all of the sudden all these allegations came out. Good timing perhaps? Well let the story unfold before accusing this idiot.

    October 31, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |

    You want to run for public office? You will be vetted. Welcome to the big leagues, Cain.

    October 31, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  12. Piltdown Man

    If anything, Politico is more right-leaning than liberal, so don't act like this is a hit job by the evil liberal press. This is not some "attack," it is simply a story. And it's not a black/white thing. It just is what it is.

    And Cain's reaction, his inability to simply say, "No." when asked about this, is the troubling part. Think about it. What would YOU say if you were innocent of such charges? There is no need to equivocate or dance.

    Of course, I will say that most guys at the CEO level pretty much act like they are special - and they REALLY hate it when anyone questions anything they do. They get so used to being sucked up to and "in charge," that they simply don't know how to act when
    anyone puts them on the spot. I think that's part of the problem here....

    October 31, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  13. Neil

    I have been falsely accused but I paid her .. ooops sorry THEM off and hid the secret till some reporter found it. Hey I want to be President and Mitt romney is doing it because he is jealous.

    Awesome Cain! of course republicans are morons so they will elect you and pave way for obama

    October 31, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  14. Enigma

    I bet Slick Mitt is behind this because only Herman stands between him and the nomination.

    October 31, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  15. Alina1

    This guy acting like he holds God for his beard, he talks like that, he acts like that, he smiles like that, do you think he will not do something inappropriate?

    October 31, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. DonFC

    Under the covers, so to speak, one would no doubt find, that in consideration of the "five figure settlement" agreement mentioned in the article, the allegedly harmed individuals have agreed to a confidentuality clause, preventing them from commenting on the allegations. That ensures that first person accounts will never be forth coming and the lack of particulars used as proof of innocense.

    October 31, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  17. Corey

    "Call me crazy but why would anyone who (falsely accuses someone) receive a 5 figure separation packages if nothing happened? It sounds to me like they were bought off."

    Apparently you have never worked in the Executive tier. $99,000.00 is a low separation package in this realm.

    October 31, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  18. Emmy Skaddittle

    I love the republicans, you give Cain and Newt a pass but crucify a democrat pathetic

    October 31, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  19. Bill in Florida

    Anybody who thinks the Dems are behind the harassment allegations needs to have his/her head examined. Dems would ABSOLUTELY LOVE for Cain to be the GOP nominee because President Obama would slaughter the guy in debates.

    October 31, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. Jax atty

    I don't care if he fondled every woman in the place, anything is better than Obama

    October 31, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  21. Guest

    The knee-jerk reaction demonstrating the extraordinary shallowness of your thought processes are glaringly apparent. Th liberal media attacking? You clearly haven't even looked at Politico which tilts to the right. Discount the women because they haven't come forward? They signed a gag order, stupid! Why now? Because Politico just learned about it – when did you expect it to be exposed? The length of time since the alleged behavior isn't an issue – what should be an issue is his continuing distain for women overall.

    October 31, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. dmills8

    ā€œIf in fact, two women were given five-figurĀ­e financial settlementĀ­s . . . . and it looks like POLITICO facts are holding up ... than GAME OVER for this event being forgiven with references to Cainā€™s character.

    FurthermorĀ­e, it never matters who digs up facts like these or what their plan is for releasing it. I donā€™t care whether Republican or Democrat leaked it.

    Too bad Cain's campaign manager couldn't have gotten infront of this story or had enough experience to handle it better in the media than he is doing. Cainā€™s unconventiĀ­onal campaign means he was not vetted properly and he may not have tinsel strength to charm his way out of events like these.

    Anthony Weiner (inapproprĀ­iate pictures emailed) taught many of us in politics that it is better to not stonewall and dodge these touchy topics. Most of the population has grown to tolerate these things. How you handle these events is what matters to me!ā€

    October 31, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  23. Terry

    Yeah...he was "innocent" which why both women had to be paid off with substantial compensation! Shades of Clarence Thomas. Well, we can scratch off Cain and add him to the long list of other Republican dumbos running who have no ideas and are against the 99% of us!

    October 31, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  24. petemg

    Does Mr. Cain have the other candidates running scared that they have to nit pick him. If they were to use the same thing with King Obama, Obama would be out. One that is good about this though is the fact that others are having their own tax plans. Good for you, Mr. Cain. I do believe the others do not like the idea that it is another person of color who is trying for king obama's position.

    October 31, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  25. Anne

    The fact that these women were paid off suggests that something DID happen. But I'm much more concerned in 2011 about his horrible 9-9-9 plan which would hurt most Americans, his proud ignorance of national & global issues, his lack of empathy for people unemployed through no fault of theirs, and his willingness to insult fellow blacks who vote for Democrats by calling us "brainwashed." At this point, I'm more inclined to believe the resurrection of this matter is the handiwork of one of his GOP rivals or of Karl Rove, who does not want him to be the nominee.

    October 31, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
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