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. tewrobert

    Boring........Trashing of America.........

    October 31, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. Jake

    Another great candidate for the highest office. A former pizza employee that hung out as an business association president (laughable) and while there fondled the help. And he was recently numero uno in the republican polls? Who are these imbeciles voting for him? Well the other side voted in an inexperience solcial worker from Chicago that has lived off the government dime all of his life. A country that votes by sound bites and media mind clutter.

    October 31, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  3. Larry

    I don't want Obama to be re-elected, but the bunch of idiots the republicans have make him look good.

    October 31, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  4. seneca

    They accusers cant come forward due to the settlement that was reached which legally does not allow them to come forward, and Cain knows this.

    October 31, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  5. Seriously?

    These allegations may be false, but what is true is Cain's horrible performance as a CEO. When he took over the Godfather's Pizza chain in 1986 the company had revenues of $272 million which were cut to $242 million after cost cutting measures reducing the number of stores to 563. At the end of his tenure as CEO, revenues were $265 million for 540 stores. That is revenue growth of 1%/year and same store sales growth of 1.6%. He didn't even keep pace with inflation. So why would you vote for this guy?

    October 31, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  6. TonyInNYC

    I wonder what would happen to the women if they breached those confidentiality agreements.

    October 31, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. seneca

    Railroaded, yes its obviously ballot box stuffing when a liberal president wins the vote by 65%, but if a republican wins the vote by less than 1% its not because his daddy paid for better lawyers and foloridian politician favors, huh?

    October 31, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. GrandpaDon

    Mr. Cain, I do NOT care what you did in the past! It is ALL about what you do in the future. You have my VOTE and I beg you to NOT give up. Please HELP my America breathe again.

    October 31, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. JoeBelow

    Lawsuits are settled all the time instead of going through a protracted, expensive litigation. Guilt or innocence of the allegations has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is for 100% financial purposes and standard procedure in the business world. This whole story is just a lame attempt at a smear campaign because that's how dirty politics run. Our electoral process is a freakin' joke!

    October 31, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  10. JoeBelow

    Lawsuits are settled all the time instead of going through a protracted, expensive litigation. Guilt or innocence of the allegations has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is for 100% financial purposes and standard procedure in the business world. This whole story is just a lame attempt at a smear campaign because that's how dirty politics run. Our electoral process is a friggin' joke!

    October 31, 2011 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  11. JoeBelow

    Lawsuits are settled all the time instead of going through a protracted, expensive litigation. Guilt or innocence of the allegations has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is for 100% financial purposes and standard procedure in the business world. This whole story is just a lame attempt at a smear campaign because that's how dirty politics run. Our electoral process is a joke!

    October 31, 2011 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  12. bartoly

    herman cain is not particularly bright, a tool of the koch brothers, and has indeed jumped his pizza. Ya'll best find someone else to pit your fevered fox news dreams on

    October 31, 2011 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  13. amac

    I'm no Herman Cain supporter, but the moment I saw this headline I immediately thought of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the "high tech lynching" he endured en route to his post.

    October 31, 2011 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  14. no1atall

    Beautiful. I told you this guy was delusional. Clarence Thomas 2.0. While we're on this topic...

    October 31, 2011 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  15. Sid in Penn

    999 may never come to fruition but it has finally opened up the discussion on tax reform which is greatly needed.

    October 31, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  16. no1atall

    ...What ever happened to that lawsuit from Sarah? Remember...

    October 31, 2011 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  17. mshare

    Some of you might want to actually read the story. It's not the liberal media or "liberals" that broke this story and are "going after" Cain, but Politico, a magazine/website that was started by a conservative.

    October 31, 2011 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  18. Angus J

    That's my boy! All doubt has been erased. I'm voting for Cain!

    October 31, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  19. no1atall

    ...The one about that book? That book that falsely claimed that she slept with that black guy?

    October 31, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  20. Peniah

    Nine in German means No. Therefore 999= NO, NO, NO Cain !

    October 31, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  21. Angus J

    Let the smear tactics begin! They always start with the good one's.

    October 31, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Ann Coulter said on Fox News. "This is another high-tech lynching." Oh yeah, that's real sweet coming from the GOP-bimbo-in-chief. I'd love to see the media high-tech lynch Ann Coulter.

    October 31, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  23. FLIndependent

    "Please HELP my America breathe again." –

    What does this even mean and "your America"? I swear, some of these posts are just unbelievable. Now Cain is your Savior? What does this man have to offer our Country as President and CIC...I just don't get you people.

    October 31, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. ANTI-CON

    Love Cain's reaction,.. NEIN,NEIN,NEIN. (:>)

    October 31, 2011 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  25. 46th Pres

    I know a women that has 3 children with the last name Soetero, the oldest boy is named Barry, she was never married, but was a community activist in Chicago and worked with Obama. She will release more information to me and only me as the story develops.

    October 31, 2011 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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