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. Bruce

    Several women who have worked with Cain for years have come forward and said that he always treated them with respect and as equals – but they don't seem to be getting much press.

    October 31, 2011 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Oh for Petes' sakes! His OWN Party is bringing him down one gaffe and scandal at a time......and he's cool with that because he's NOT in it for the long-haul.
    Face it already, Cain sucks....all kinds of ways and things.

    October 31, 2011 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  3. RCDC

    He should try it with the President of Iran. He might say: hey there...

    October 31, 2011 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Goodness but you GOP/T-Pers are silly. All of America has understood the intent behind the right wing backing of Herman Cain. Reminiscent of "pretend" Hillary voters in 2007, and when that didn't work, dragging Palin in at the last minute in 2008. That nonsense idn't work then, won't work now. You all might ask yourselves who benefits most from a diminished Herman Cain ... Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, or Mitt Romney? Changes are the answer is all of the above. Typical right wing smear job ... except in this case, it's directed at one of their own.

    October 31, 2011 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  5. Frederico

    I don't like Herman Cain. Who is he? Is he a purveyor of junk food? Coca-Cola, and cardboad pizza? He reminds me of a flim flam man. What is happening to this country?

    October 31, 2011 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  6. Kiki

    She obviously did not want sausage on her pizza. These guys are all the same.

    October 31, 2011 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. navymom

    Cain's guilty. I've worked thirty years for various law firms and no attorney is going to pay off anyone unless there was truth to the allegations. His transgressions may not be an issue for some, but I wouldn't vote for the guy because of his stance on other issues, e.g., Planned Parenthood invented to get rid of black babies? C'mon people I hope you have more common sense.

    October 31, 2011 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  8. Amarpreet

    Mr Cain is terrific except for one important thing: he would deny a woman's right to an abortion, so he won't be getting my vote!

    October 31, 2011 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  9. winstonsmith

    "Hey Obama took votes away fro Hillary illegally basically he screwed her over and the People still elected him!"

    That's a major accusation. Proof...? Anything to back up your wild claims?

    "Anything Cain has done is mild in comparison to that–and he's really a black man–he'll be our first black president!"

    People are SERIOUSLY saying this kinda stuff? Man, this country does deserve to go down in flames (but at the low, low rate of $9.99).

    October 31, 2011 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. erich2112x

    Of course he's innocent, until it can be proven, then we'll get the standard apology, probably with the preacher of his church by his side. We know the drill. It aint our first rodeo.

    October 31, 2011 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  11. Larry

    I believe that bush on steroids and twice as dumb is up to this.

    The anti-christ wouldn’t stoop that low. Malibu Barbie isn’t that devious.

    I believe you Herman Monster. Hang in there.

    October 31, 2011 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. Brad5013

    I can't wait till Newt Gingrich, the serial adulterer weighs in on this one!

    October 31, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  13. jon

    Useless Democrat/state media tactic that goes back at least 30 years. If it was a democrat being accused they would have the women's names all over the tube and be in the process of calling them women of ill repute and whatever character assassination they could manage.

    October 31, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  14. Justme

    Cain and Perry are unelectable!

    October 31, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  15. Chris

    What? What's that? Corrupt politician? NOOOOO WAAAYYYYYYY!!!! Find me one that doesn't have some sort of issue, and then I'd call you crazy!

    October 31, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  16. MACK

    I'm sure it is a prerequisite for anyone heading any organization that designates itself as the NRA, to be disposed to having a warped sense of reality.

    October 31, 2011 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  17. MK54

    Looks like this Cain has been struck down by a SISTER, instead of Abel, his brother.

    October 31, 2011 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  18. Jeff Moore

    I support Mr.Cain all the way!! For the first time ever I am sending someone Money running for office !!! We need to save our Country from the people who are killing it!!

    October 31, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  19. Dana from Tulsa

    It's said that the the media can't accept a conservative, successful African American that happens to be a republican. I don't believe this would have been dug up if Cain happened to be a democrat.

    October 31, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  20. Hoofleau

    This always happens. The "abused" women wait then come out of hiding. What a farce. Seriously, how many times have you seen this happen? Don't give these women the time of day. They are showboating for publicity and probably being paid for by someone. It's a scam or there would be legal charges on file. Disregard this fodder.

    October 31, 2011 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  21. Railroaded by Democrat scam artists

    ANYTHING no matter how underhanded to derail a threat. Explains all the VOTING FRAUD being uncovered recently nationwide in local elections including ballot-box stuffing. The radical left have NO shame.

    October 31, 2011 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  22. Charles

    Another high-techlynching. The Democrats do seem terrified of minorities that they can't control. Not that much has changed since 1860.

    October 31, 2011 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  23. liz

    Would anyone actually expect him to admit that he did it?

    October 31, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  24. Steve/CT

    The President and CEO of Politico is a former advisor to Ronald Reagan. Doesn't sound very Left Wing to me.

    October 31, 2011 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  25. od

    First the Italian Defamation League went after him for the "Godfather's Pizza" name (which I'm Italian too and could care less) and now this....they're trying everything they can with this smear campaign. Politics can be so childish.

    October 31, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
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