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. frankie

    I will bet this will be just the start of this mans downfall. Pizza man will wish tha he had a good old brick oveb furnace to jump into to. Things were just a bit to goody to shoes for such a business mongel. Most poeple know that climbing up that pizza chain can be more than a mozzerella rope. O- WELL!!!! And another one bites the dust. Now if we can just get Michelle Bachmann to keep her stupid mouth shut or maybe keep talking stupidity than the elination process will be easier than we think. Michelle –Please take up some courses in geography –You are scary stupid.

    October 31, 2011 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  2. sara

    I knew something wasn't right with this idiot. His character!

    October 31, 2011 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  3. Concerned

    bookgirl: That 'rock' is called The United States of America .... where are you from?

    October 31, 2011 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  4. sara

    BTW....where's his wife and family....does he have one. She could be the First Lady of the country...where is she. Mrs. Cain knows the truth about this idiot obviously.

    October 31, 2011 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  5. rand

    The women received large six figure settlements...................what does that tell you?

    October 31, 2011 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  6. Rich

    Sounds like the Tea Baggers ratted him out.After all did anybody see the racist pics of the president at their "demonstrations"
    paid for by the Koch bros.

    October 31, 2011 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  7. doc

    Come on remember the HR nightmares of the 90's. It was crazy back then. If you even looked at someone wrong, used the term black instead of african american, or opened a door for a woman you were offensive.

    October 31, 2011 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  8. frankie

    I am sorry for the spelling. Just got a bit carried away and I do need spell check.I admit it.

    October 31, 2011 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  9. DumbasRocks [R]s

    Hey Mark B. and Concerned, and other apologists for the [R]ightwing underbelly: that's all you have? Deflections about "Clinton and other [D]s"? This article isn't about them; its about Cain. And if Cain uses the same deflectionary defense that you are attempting, he will show himself to the the same hypocritical relativists you pinheads are.

    Do you people have to take a 'stupid' test to be a [R]ightwing certainly seems so!

    October 31, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  10. Jaynicia

    I swear this is much better than watching "The Walking Dead." The Repubs/Baggers are virtually chewing each other to death.

    October 31, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  11. John Smithson

    "When asked by CNN Monday if Cain ever engaged in innuendo with any members of the NRA, he said 'no.'"

    Cain is denying that he ever engaged in innuendo. I'm not sure how one exactly does engage in innuendo, but it does sound perverted. Bill Clinton is an expert in parsing words like this. Maybe we should ask him.

    October 31, 2011 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  12. rand

    Reverend Jeremiah Wright..................Obama's RACIST preacher never got this much PRESS and SCRUTINY.............HHHMMMM.wonder WHY............. main stream media?????

    Oh that's pick and CHOOSE your TARGETS................

    October 31, 2011 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  13. sean

    What you are seeing here is what happens all the time in corporate Amerika. The position of CEO really answers to no one, usually not even the board of directors which they have stacked with friends. They do whatever they want, and no subordinate is going to speak up. Cain was just such a CEO. He is astonished that people would now challenge any of his behavior. The hubris of this man, and of most CEOs is beyond the pale; they do no wrong, ever because whatever they do is sanctioned by their position as CEO.

    October 31, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  14. Alina1

    These are like the worst Presidential candidates ever, they are shaped by the Tea Party, what can you expect from them, except lunacy?

    October 31, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  15. Gemini Girl

    Agree with you, Real Tom Paine,
    And you think with the KOCH BROTHERS behind his campaign, you'd think they would have kept this from coming out! But when you let the free press be free, then things come out that should if true. I'm sure you won't hear any of this mentioned on the FAUX CHANNEL, aka GOP-TV (sorry, I hear that on the radio earlier today!) Or if they do mention it, they will jump on the band wagon & pretend it came from the liberal press! The "news" on that channel is very limited, because they want to control what gets out there. It's a shame. Anyway, I had a feeling that Cain's poll numbers, now it's just a matter of time....tick, tick, tick...

    October 31, 2011 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  16. Hitobito

    If he paid them off...he may be guilty! BTW, this isn't about Reverend Wright, the POTUS or former President Clinton. I am not going to judge Mr. Cain. Let the facts and reality convict or exonerate him. His 9-9-9 plan is appealing to those of us who sold our company for nine figures. For the rest of the population...not so much!

    October 31, 2011 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  17. tor5

    It’s interesting that Coulter is coming to Cain’s defense. She must know that Cain won’t stand a chance against Obama, so to defend him actually works against Republicans. It’s also interesting that Coulter herself couldn’t be nearly so dislikable without trying really hard, and she must know that her persona frightens normal people away from conservatism. It all makes me think that she must be a liberal plant to mess up Republicans. What else could explain her relentless hideousness?

    October 31, 2011 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. kathy lundy

    There were so many questions out there regarding Obama and his associates. Yet none were ever addressed by most of the major news outlets. But Whoopie this is a news story...or is it a waste of air space.

    October 31, 2011 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  19. chuckly

    am I missing something here 'rand'? When exactly did Jeremiah Wright run for president?

    October 31, 2011 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  20. Fedelia

    Look at the teas and the Rs SCREECHING at each other like banshees, with the predictable and tiresome "liberal media witch hunt" thrown in for good measure.


    October 31, 2011 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  21. christina knight

    accusations from 2 women? sounds credible to me. looks like the guy's toast.

    October 31, 2011 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  22. John

    Another one bite the dust. These clown are dropping like fly.

    October 31, 2011 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  23. Charly

    The women left after receiving "separation packages that were in the five-figure range". So that could include anything from 10k to 99k – wow, sounds like a financial windfall. If you included cents, five figures could actually even be in the hundreds, not thousands of dollars. Has anyone ever heard of a decent package that was anything less than five figures?

    October 31, 2011 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  24. BillD

    Allegations like these can happen to almost any man in the normal course of a conversation nowadays. The accusers names are kept from the person in accordance with the law and the person never gets to confront their accuser. The accusations can come from totally innocuous statements by one person to another and overheard by a third person that takes offense to them. It is completely plausible that Mr Cain had no knowledge of when this happened since the rules do not permit him to know who made the complaint, what was said that offended the person or when it happened. He would also not been privy to any settlement since he wasn't allowed to know who made the accusation. Even when charges like this are completely fabricated it is almost impossible to defend yourself against them since the rules are stacked against the person being charged. If the person even used one four letter word where it could be overheard by a specially sensitive idiot a charge could be made that would result in the person being charged without dismissed for cause since the employer would want to avoid charges of having a hostile work place.

    October 31, 2011 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  25. cliff

    I am less concerned about whether Cain did harass these women than his less than honest initial response. Now, he is saying he knew about the payoff. That is more damning to me by far. Add to that the news that his campaign received $$$ from a non-profit (illegally) that seems to have been set up by his friends for his benefit. Say bye bye Mr. Cain.

    October 31, 2011 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
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