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. republicanshate women, eventheirOWNmothers

    This is just a republican 'swiftboat' to get Romney the nomination.
    It's also a political miscalculation.
    Cain probably DID do it, but since republicans voters don't like women very much anyway, it'll make ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE.

    October 31, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. Kenny K

    I don't think there was a settlement in Clarence Thomas' case. The fact that there were settlements in Herman Cain's case means something was covered up.

    October 31, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    Concerned, sorry, the GOP is devoid of Progressives, and your conspiracy theory is laughable. Your man Cain is owned by the Koch Brothers, who do feel they should be calling the shots in thsi country by virtue of their wealth. Cain is no outsider, he's run for office before and has sat on the board for the Fed in Atlanta: that fits your consipracy theory far better than any wild-eyed Progressive in terms of controlling people. Thanks for the laugh.

    October 31, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  4. Joe The Plumber

    How could he think these accusations would not come out? When you run for President – nothing is off the table.

    October 31, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    Sorry Kala, Politico is a conservative publication. Take your meds, read a little, and write something coherent next time.

    October 31, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. no1atall

    Back to 'Herb', his campaign vp blew cigarette smoke at the camera; I guess they forgot that Cain's a cancer survivor! What a bunch of loons.

    October 31, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  7. Mark B.

    Why the heck didn't any of you question the current failure -in-chief before you elected him. This is another Tina Fey moment to manufacture something to disapprove of. What sheep the left are.

    October 31, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. floridares

    Coulter engages in high tech punching on Obama all time as does the Gop&tea party. If it is against a conservative her definition changes...

    October 31, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  9. Hampton96

    Unless and until these accusers come forward this is a non issue. If there are others that come forward then maybe it is newsworthy otherwise this is baseless hearsay and innuendo. I am anti republican and dislike Herman Cain as an individual and black man by the way but i don't believe in piling on to bs...

    October 31, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. lcleejr

    anyone that understands non-verbal cues can see that cain is lying. its par for his party.

    October 31, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  11. Name reid

    Well here we go again some not so innocent woman tryin to steal the political limelight women play a major role in these elections and if cain doesn't have a solid plan these allegations will make look like womanizer.

    October 31, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. Big Jilm

    Not sure about you but I don't pay-off accusers with 5-digit money wads if they are lying.

    October 31, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. gw

    If he sees himself as Clarence Thomas (who he admires the most on the Supreme Court), then he's surely guilty. Only a juvenile male could come up with the phrase "pubic hair on a coke can." Just as Thomas was a sleezebag, Cain is equally sleezy.

    October 31, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  14. gutsycall

    Wow, looking at the news, this is looking like another building proposition of "boss wants to sleep with the employee." Unfortunately, this is probably founded upon Mitt Romney.

    October 31, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  15. chicagok

    Cain should admit. Just take the Democrat presidential candidate excuse: Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and John Edwards. Maybe Cain is really a Democrat!

    October 31, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  16. gutsycall

    Anyone want to bet Mitt Romney's team of "deep research" mud slingers found this and pushed it out.

    October 31, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  17. chuchsheen9

    Liberals didn't have a problem with Teddy Kennedy, John Edwards, and Bill Clinton, etc.

    October 31, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |

    Allegations,denied need evidences,investigation.

    October 31, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  19. jg

    Minute 20 of Cain's 15 minutes in the spotlight.
    Good riddance.....

    October 31, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  20. gutsycall

    This was classic "Mitt Romney" deep research dirt digging. Mitt has the most to gain if Herman Cain goes down.

    October 31, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. gutsycall

    Anyone want to bet Romney's campaign will pay off the lady to speak up and he'll make it all good.

    October 31, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. gutsycall

    I can say who it isn't, the Koch Brothers. This is their Uncle Tom.

    October 31, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  23. DowninTexas

    Wow... so many jumping to his defense – quite amazing. Life experiences have taught me that where there is smoke, there is usually fire. With that enormous ego of his, this comes as no surprise to me. And so what he wasn't convicted – if the women were paid off, then it happened. HYPOCRITE.

    Anyway, it won't be long before anyone with a brain figures out his 9 9 9 plan does nothing but fleece the middle and lower class anyway to the benefit of his brothers in arms on Wall Street.

    October 31, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. NVa Native

    Any time the press brings up something the GOP deosn't like they claim it's a liberal plot and they're some how a victim.
    Cry-baby bullies.

    October 31, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. JumpinJehosefats

    Politics SUCKS! The really good people who would do the right things aren't stupid enough to try to be President. It's a low-paying, high-stress, target-on-your-back, never-right, political position leading a bunch of self-centered government workers who fight between themselves just to strengthen and identify 'us vs. them' decisions by the population so reality doesn't have to be explained (unsuccessfully) to the people. Politics SUCKS! I wish we could be able to elect a leader who isn't bound by all these unproductive limitations, who would simply be good for the U.S. and her citizens.

    October 31, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
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