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. rick jolie

    so if he calls this a witch hunt, does that mean he considers himself a witch?

    October 31, 2011 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  2. Alex

    Nice sleuthing on the part of the Ronmney campaign, I'm sure. But still, if NOTHING happened (accordingto Cain), why the pay off?? Maybe we will see his, ah, true color.

    October 31, 2011 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  3. JS

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA. Anotehr one bites the dust. That's it. He's outa there. Can't stop laughing.

    October 31, 2011 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  4. GauisJulius

    Ahh, I remember the good ole days when the media actually fully investigated these stories without jumping the gun. All I remember from this weekend's fiasco is that unidentified sources have said other unidentified sources said this and this. But to CNN, it is just more ammo to indict Cain as "not good enough to run against Obama." That would be too easy to stop those that say others only vote against Obama because he is black. Forget his extremist policies.

    October 31, 2011 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  5. Tracy E. Trent

    I have faithfully watched cnn for years ,I am very dissapointed in your coverage of Herman Cain,especially the lady that was on with you at 6:00 pm eastern time. Get on with it, or im gonna change watching this channel ,you clearly are trying to assasinate this mans character .# of my friends agree who also watched over 15 mins. of your team swaying against this man.What is your reporting coming to,ad end if we turn you off!!!!!!

    October 31, 2011 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. bipar08

    looks like the 999 turned into 666

    October 31, 2011 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  7. Cassandra

    If someone got a payment settlement, why didn't he see this coming?

    October 31, 2011 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  8. Mark

    I'm neither for Democrats or Republicans, both come from the same stench...but I cannot help but laugh at calling this some liberal thing...the story was broken by Polito – now lets all say it together, a CON-SERV-A-TIVE media outlet; Look this is GOP primary season – everything is fair game, the liberals don't even have to lift a finger while candidates cannibalize each other to the top of the ticket.

    As for Cain, the media didn't make the story up, it was an investigation and that is what is being reported – get over it Herman – and welcome to national level politics. This baggage will probably sink whatever chances he had – fair or not – he should have braced for it knowing this would come out.

    October 31, 2011 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  9. Edward Douglas

    It never ceases to amaze me that we look back over decades to try and find a THREAD of negativity to paint someone in a bad light. Why is the country in the shape it is? This is another great example. Very sad. Every candidate on both sides of the isle would have some negative thing about them in the last fifteen years. We need leadership, not a mud fight.

    October 31, 2011 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  10. harvty

    How dare a Black American claim to be Conservative! Lynch Him! Sounds an awful lot like the Clarence Thomas case. Seriously, I had hoped we moved past this nonsense. The truth is that racism knows no bounds; be it color, age, political party, etc. Cain will prevail.

    October 31, 2011 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |

    Good bye Mr Cain, tell Perry, Bachmann and Palin I said Hey!. LOL 🙂 Cause another one bites the dust.

    October 31, 2011 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  12. Real

    Typical politics... Kids trying to be grown-ups without learning how to behave like grown-ups first. Cain likely did nothing of the sort...this is just typical textbook political mudslinging.

    October 31, 2011 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  13. wolfsamoron

    I cannot help but think that there were comments related to the size of Pepperoni involved. That would be perfect for Mr. Cain. With a background at Burger King and Godfather's Pizza, this clown just can't avoid providing amusement. I can't wait to see a Burger King related story where old Herman utters those words "...Hmmmmmmm! This IS a Tasty Burger."
    Keep it going until next Summer, Herman. Keep us laughing and sell those books before you disappear into Palinland.

    October 31, 2011 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  14. Kiki

    He's changing his story now. Typical liar.

    October 31, 2011 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  15. Qularknoo

    MSNBC, Politico and the two women ... are engaging in slander ... for the purpose of destroying another's reputation ... this has nothing to do with correcting a problem.

    October 31, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  16. Patricksday

    The GOP had to derail his fast Train as we knew they would do. No Republican will ever take orders from a Black President or a Woman of any color. And Rush Limbaugh needs to give his endorsement for them to proceed with the right corporate puppet.

    October 31, 2011 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  17. Mimicry Republicans

    Please CNN . . . I'm begging . . . Hire Jerry Springer to write the questions, produce, and moderate the next debate. Make sure Perry is standing between Romney and Paul. Move Michelle right close inbetween Newt and Cain. Better yet, plant a fake Snookie or Kardashwhateverian in Cain's and Newt's private dressing rooms with hidden cameras! Then bring out their spouses.

    October 31, 2011 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  18. navymom

    Cain needs to tell the truth. His explanation as to how one of the allegations against him came about is laughable. Big corporations are not afraid to fight off or get to the bottom of allegations such as these. There would have been no payoff unless there was truth to the allegations.

    October 31, 2011 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  19. absolutely1

    looks like republiucans had enough of cain and decided to throw him under the bus along with his dirty laundry using sleight of hand to blame the liberal press for the story.Won't be surprised if they were the mastermind behind this dastardly deed.

    October 31, 2011 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  20. Inrealityhere

    This country does't deserve someone like Cain as president. He's far superior in character than 99%.

    October 31, 2011 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  21. paul1121

    Well, lets try this one on for size, *ahem^, Ladies and Gentlemen, The President of the United States, Herman Cain!!! Lets give a round of applause for President Cain!!! ........*blink*....*blink*.....pause.....Naw! I don't see this happening.

    October 31, 2011 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  22. Numyorangay

    on second thought, I would not be surprised if Cain set this up himself.

    October 31, 2011 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  23. Michelle

    Nobody needs to address any allegations. It was 15 years ago, the investigation absolved him of wrong doing. Why are they bringing it up now? How come something Cain did not do 15 years ago is so important, but nothing that Obama was associated with that was just as ugly was considered important?

    October 31, 2011 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  24. Michelle

    I vote we spend as much time critiquing Obama using the same standards as is being used for every Republican. If you do that then you have credibility. Otherwise you should be quiet.

    October 31, 2011 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  25. barbara

    This is another smear of Conservative Black Americans and Women. Clarance Thomas should counsel Cain on what a bunch of Fascist slimes these folks are. Fortunately the majority in this country see right through this game.

    October 31, 2011 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
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