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. Name

    Wow I knew he came off as a forceful guy.

    October 31, 2011 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  2. Motley

    Anyone can make allegations of any nature,.. does not mean they are true, nor does it mean that if 2 women did indeed receive separation packages under $100K that it was directly due to allegations as many times people get separation packages when leaving companies when in a higher paid position.

    Sorry I prefer facts to judge someone other than rumors and allegations which have no facts attached to them

    October 31, 2011 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  3. jim

    "Washington establishment critics haven't had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain's ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs"

    actually, they've been quite successful showing his ideas will result in higher taxes for those who can afford it the least, and little, if any, job growth potential. they don't need to find dirt on cain ... his plans are ammunition enough to take him down.

    October 31, 2011 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  4. Jack

    Here we go...his/campaigns responses are inappropriate and I smell a rat...and please don't blame the press! He's trying to hang with the big boys (he can't he's a FAKE)

    October 31, 2011 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  5. SiriusVH

    "Since Washington establishment critics haven't had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain's ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can." ...... You mean, he actually has ideas to get the economy growing and he did not mention anything about it for all this time?! ... The only thing I heard was that vague and idiotic 9-9-9 thing .... I also heard him talk about eliminating truckloads of regulations in unspecified areas ... but all that is just GOP religious beliefs. I did not hear him present anything that would actually create jobs in the real world, not in La-La land ....... Has he said what he plans to do with the housing crisis? Until that gets fixed, you can forget about the economy growing fast ....

    October 31, 2011 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  6. vernelle burkins

    There is always something there to remind u

    October 31, 2011 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  7. Oldie in TampaBay

    WHEN are people going to open their eyes about Cain???? This incident is just the tip of the iceberg ...

    October 31, 2011 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  8. sunvisor

    why wait until now to bring this out???

    October 31, 2011 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  9. Will

    Where there is smoke, there is probably a fire.

    October 31, 2011 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  10. sgreco

    Now he's turned into Bart Simpson, "I DIDN'T DO IT!"

    I love that some righties said, 'well clinton had an affair." But since they've branded him a terrible president because of it, they'll just have no choice but to agree Cain would be too. Besides, Clinton had an affair with a consenting adult. Cain used his power to force it.


    October 31, 2011 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  11. Anonymous

    all the news is good for these days is dirt.

    October 31, 2011 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  12. Z

    So the business bought the women off to make it go away...and it's Obama's fault. That's essentially what he has hinted at with 'Washington establishment". Given that he's Tea Party, and that group wore shirts with slogans from GOP hero 'Ayn Rand' (who advocates destroying everything 'American'), electing him will be the final nail in America's coffin.

    October 31, 2011 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  13. CA Dream USA

    Wow......Let's just hope it's not true......

    October 31, 2011 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  14. Tony

    Well, too bad for Cain. He is opposed to women's constitutional right to abortion, with no exceptions. So these women are exercising their constitutional right as voters to abort his presidential campaign.

    October 31, 2011 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  15. Jim Tuffit

    It's funny how women come out of the woodwork when there's an agenda. I don't believe the women. If I did believe them, I would also believe Cain to be no worse than clinton. Ask monica to tell you her cigar story...

    October 31, 2011 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  16. Lucas

    This is stupid. Welcome to modern day politics!

    October 31, 2011 03:11 am at 3:11 am |
  17. Mark

    "a sign the media “have begun to launch unsubstantiated personal attacks on Cain.”...Oh please, while the media are hardly without their own sins, I am sick of candidates trying to pin their own failings on media. This doesn't strike me as bad journalism, it sounds more like skeletons in the closet.

    October 31, 2011 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  18. Thinker

    Sorry buddy, you're not cut out for this job. Ron Paul 2012.

    October 31, 2011 03:33 am at 3:33 am |
  19. belinda

    I am in awe of these two women, willing to take on this media storm, they are doing the right thing . It's time American women start flexing their voter power. If the Republican men in this Country think that we are going to go back to the days, when men tell us what to do , they are insane !!!!!!!!!!!! It's time we put these tea party people where they belong . Dump the tea party, the party of zero !!!!!!!!!!!! Think of your mom , sister , daughter, cousin , would u want some misogynist creep all over them ????

    October 31, 2011 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  20. Moyo

    Another candidate that likes women..? that's it; he's officially qualified to run for the white house.

    October 31, 2011 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Let the man be he's got to be better than we've had these almost 12years.

    October 31, 2011 04:04 am at 4:04 am |
  22. eville_11

    wikileaks founder Julian Assange is a hero to millions.... even after two rape charges. Don't worry Cain, if the political battle goes sour, Julian will find you a job.

    October 31, 2011 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  23. BB

    Witchhunting by the Gop establishment! I wish you got some!!

    October 31, 2011 04:23 am at 4:23 am |
  24. NoGr8rH8r

    Cain won't be the nominee.

    October 31, 2011 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  25. Fareed Ansari

    A Karl Rove hit job; hoping the once accused never acquitted mud will stick. Wil-lard Romney is worried and rightly so.

    October 31, 2011 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
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