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. MotoJB

    I'm not a supporter...but come on. Another political smear campaign. Sick of stupid political games.

    October 31, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. James in NYC

    This may be very small potatoes, BUT... it's completely disingenuous of Cain to demand the thing go away unless the women come forward, when Cain KNOWS the settlement they agreed to precludes them talking about it. If he and the organization (at his request) want to waive the nondisclosure clause, and THEN demand that his accusers come forward, he gets to whine. Till then, he can lie all he wants to, and the other parties cannot contradict him, which is something everybody ought to know.

    October 31, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  3. MIke smith

    The news just verified that one of the 2 was paid off. Might be time for another smoking /strange smile commercial to take the edge off.

    October 31, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. cf

    Bye bye, Cain. You can't pay someone off and then say nothing happened. If it went to court and you were found innocent, that's one thing. But you paid them off to keep quiet so that it wouldn't even go that far. That makes you look guilty. And without a court verdict, there will always be the doubt of your innocence. You're finished. Save whatever is left of your dignity and drop out now.

    October 31, 2011 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. April Garlow

    I think this may have the opposite effect than the one that the muckrakers intended-Attack my friend and you have attacked me–I will stand with Cain-We know this is bogus political trickery–even if it is one hundred percent true-Cain's positives far outweigh this old old old accusation. We Republicans are about the future-not the past!

    October 31, 2011 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  6. Roger

    When they come at you in twos, you are usually toast. Hope your couch is cozy.

    October 31, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  7. Numyorangay

    He will say it is a distraction.

    October 31, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  8. Bob

    Cain was never going to get the election anyway. As for the "liberal" press, this was obviously something that a Republican operative put out there because Cain is in the lead. Cain is toast. But even without this his policies are way to whacko to get him elected.

    October 31, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  9. GaryB

    His reaction (and hss staff's reaction) to the charges have been less than reassuring. First blames the media. Second, deny without really denying. Third, admit some of it may be true... It reminds me a lot of Anthony Wiener. Of course, that may not be a big problem for Cain, as in the eyes of his supporters, he can do no wrong.

    October 31, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  10. thatsaboutthesizeofit

    The Don always asks to see his accusers face to face too. then they dissapear. This "Godfather" meets with his accusers face to face then they get paid off (without an actual legal "settlement" so they can deny there is a settlement);but in either case, the "problem" just goes away.

    October 31, 2011 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. Randy, San Francisco

    Another GOP/Tea Party Family Values candidate going down in flames. What else is in the closets of these sad sack presidential candidates?

    October 31, 2011 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  12. bostonmed

    Funny when allegations like these are leveled against a Democrat the GOP tells us we should take them as gospel and fact. But when they are leveled against a member of the GOP – they are taken as character assassination, lies, slander worthy of a full detailed investigation before any hasty conclusions are made. People would be ready to stone Cain if he was a Democrat. Irrespective of these allegations, Cain is hopelessly wed to special interests. His 999 plan evidences this. The unfortunate thing is that many of those supporting this plan can probably not calculate the sum of 9+9+9. The only good thing about Cain is that he is not electable in the national election. Too much racism exists in this country-in both parties. Given enough time, Cain's campaign will tank. In the mean time it will be interesting to see what else tumbles out of his closet.

    October 31, 2011 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    PA girl, Obama was vetted, and has had every aspect of his life investigated to a degree no one has ever had been. As far as the comparative extramarital antics of liberals vs. conservatives, you seem to forget that when Obama took office, the Dept of the Interior was found to be exchanging oil leases for se x, but I guess you've overlooked that bit of corruption since it was all in the name of business and it benfitted the GOP. How is Obama a narcisist, by the way? He has an exemplary family life, no vices other than having an occaisional beer, and you are screaming a cyber blue streak about him. Need I also remind you that while Clinton was being rightly investigated, Newt Gingrich was looking for wife number 3 while still married to wife number 2: no comment about that, either. Where were you when Chris Lee, Larry Craig, and Mark Foley were cruising around? Please, the Right wing is far more obcessed with the private lives of people than they ever want to admit, then they turn around and attempt to preach morality: they have perfected hypocrisy as a form of policy and attempt to portray it as morality.

    October 31, 2011 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  14. Kareen

    If I am not guilty of something, I sure don't pay the victim or in this case I make sure she doesn't get paid by someone else.
    Where there is smoke, there is fire! .

    October 31, 2011 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. Dan

    The reason this is coming out now is because Cain only paid the women 9.99 to keep their mouth shut and evidently it wasn't enough! RON PAUL 2012!

    October 31, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. Richard

    Ann Coulter a pariah in print. Typical rethuglican–she blames liberals for a RETHUGLICAN PUBLICATUION.
    Politico is a republican owned publication with a conservative republican tone. Not a 'liberal' or even moderate one. So for them to have not only dug into the allegations, and to have come up with proof, then to run it. This one won't just 'go away. It seems most of the time when there is a big payoff there is fire where we see smoke. I guess they didn't get the memo that they should only speak to Cain when he allows them to. He is "TOAST"

    October 31, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  17. cog in the wheel

    I am not a Cain support, but this whole news item stinks. If a crime is committed, it needs to go through the courts. Otherwise it's just a 'he said, she said' episode from 20 years ago. I do not support Cain because of his politics and ideas (9-9-9 is half-baked in my view) but this item has no impact on my opinion of his qualifications as prez.

    October 31, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  18. Rich (in name only) in Reno

    Herman! You know who fed this crapola to Politico, don't you? Hint: The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.

    October 31, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  19. Little Jimmy Truth

    Give us about names of Cain's accusers.

    The accusers of Thomas and Clinton already came out of the door.

    October 31, 2011 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  20. April Garlow

    Hey Obama took votes away fro Hillary illegally basically he screwed her over and the People still elected him! Anything Cain has done is mild in comparison to that–and he's really a black man–he'll be our first black president!

    October 31, 2011 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  21. April Garlow

    Skeletons-Rezko-Rev Wright-this is just a little bump in the road for Cain!

    October 31, 2011 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  22. HiroAkita

    "The most endangered species – The honest man" – Natural Science

    Ron Paul 2012!!!

    October 31, 2011 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. kim

    Oh this is typical honestly I don't care for Cain at all but I'm just not shocked either. Its just too funny

    October 31, 2011 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. magruber

    I miss the good old days when I could get on the internet or read a news paper and see actual good Republicans and not these corrupt lieing facists. Fox News killed my party.
    Sure there was a bad egg here or there, but there is in the democrats also. Fox News killed my Party and the Tea Party is a satanic cult in sheeps clothing. Ron Paul is the only good option for the Republicans but the party wont choose him. Pure logic. Looks like its another 4 years of Obama.

    October 31, 2011 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. hecep

    Looks like Cain hasn't learned the lessen of history: It's not the infraction that gets you into trouble; it's the denial.

    October 31, 2011 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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