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. MeMyself and I

    "He [Cain] said emphatically the story is not true. Bring me the facts, bring me my accuser," Block said of Cain's response to the story.

    Hmmm, my guess is if they got a "five figure settlement" before leaving, I would assume that settlement included a gag-order not to talk about it. That is sort of why you pay someone off in the first place.

    And why exactly would each one get paid a settlement if nothing took place?

    I could care either way though – they guys ideas are just lame.

    October 31, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  2. barbara23

    Cain will rise above this because it is a joke. Unfortunately the crimes Clinton committed, are just an acceptable way of dealing with women, if the politician is a Liberal.

    October 31, 2011 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  3. cvf

    So this guys likes to make fund of short people eh, that's it, I'm done with Cain.

    October 31, 2011 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  4. Winker Din

    Yep – there is the end.

    October 31, 2011 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  5. Mike

    This is actually good news for Cain. He's right there in Clinton's territory, and Clinton's allegations made him even more popular. The liberal press will regret making a big deal out of this!

    October 31, 2011 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  6. Matt

    "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," J.D. Gordon, Cain's campaign vice president, said Sunday."

    They don't need to attack Cain at all. He would lose because he will not win the moderates and independents.

    October 31, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  7. dta

    Would you want to work for someone whose been accused of this? why would you tolerate it from your president, more than anything this shows his character he is willing to lie blatantly when the truth is out so sorry hes not free of political behavior you dont get to become a successful business man like him with out playing politics so please stop dubbing him pure.. THANK YOU

    October 31, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  8. Old Artillery Man

    Herman Cain; Clarence Thomas with a loud mouth.

    October 31, 2011 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  9. Black Ninja

    It's reasonable to assume that this info was dug up by another GOP candidate rather than the 'liberal media' as some are claiming.

    Think about it logically... who has the money to dig this information up? who would gain from Cain stumbling in the next couple of months?

    Perry or Romney I suspect.

    Also, if it were the dems behind this, wouldn't they wait until Cain becomes the nominee to discredit him?

    October 31, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  10. fittinguy

    It's Herman Cain's policies that will disqualify him to even get the nomination. Nothing to see here people, keep moving.

    October 31, 2011 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  11. Louis

    I am a staunch republican. A...Did he do it...Almost certainly...B. Do I C. Is he a good candidate....of course not...D. Is Romney our only hope...Of course

    October 31, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  12. Sheryl

    It just amazes me that America is going with a man who has no real knowledge of the government. The 9 9 9 plan is a joke people he contradicts himself too. I just dont understand why the american people keep making the same mistakes and expect different results? It is clear America is insane. If this man is elected God helps us all.

    October 31, 2011 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  13. judith

    Cain's story keeps changing regarding this issue, just has his position on abortion keep changing and his laughable 9-9-9 position as well. The man's a fraud and a joke and will never be President. Bye-bye Herman.

    October 31, 2011 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  14. Lost in Texas FOREVER and EVER

    although I really care about this about as much as I care about watching paint dry, I will say THIS...Mr. Cain needs to get his story straight because he has already told several from not knowing what this is about to what settlement may have been paid. One thing mama always tell the truth it doesn't change, you tell a lie it just grows and grows.

    October 31, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  15. Ted

    I actually thought CNN was becoming a middle of the road Network, and not favor one political party over another. I know now that no such Network exists. John King nailed Cain on this nonsense and would not let up. He even asked an assistant to Herman Cain (for 12 years) what her Political party was and who she would be voting for. I was hoping she would ask him the same question...that would have shut him up.

    October 31, 2011 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  16. studdmuffins

    Ah, the politics of destruction brought to you by your local Democratic party. Good show. Keep it up mudslingers!

    October 31, 2011 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  17. IzzyRoush

    The Party of Family Values.

    October 31, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  18. studdmuffins

    Mudslinging from the party and the press that packaged the Honorable John Edwards, esq.

    October 31, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  19. Naida Rose

    When Gov Perry entered the presidential race, I remember hearing several political analysts comment that the man is known to do anything to win and that a lot of his campaign ads had been false or misleading against his opponents. When I heard about this incident with Cain, my first thought was that Perry is behind it...not the liberals.

    October 31, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  20. Ted

    This is nothing but Political strategy from a network that favors one party over another. You can see it in their faces and excitement when they can nail a successful candidate from the opposing Party. It unfortunate but it will always be this way. FOX goes one way and ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN goes the other. A person can't even watch everyday news that is void of political spin.

    October 31, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  21. kravitz

    Shall we await Cain's speech on racial tolerance and understanding? Tweaked, of course, for the allegations which brought us to this day?

    October 31, 2011 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  22. cxd

    If you are familiar with "The Peter Principle"....

    Expect more than just Cain as a casualty. That's why they are all considering ducking further debates. Every time their mouth or past is brought up, they ensure a second term for current sitting President...... Geez......

    October 31, 2011 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  23. Willturner

    Pat's right, he's toast over.

    October 31, 2011 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  24. westward

    Perry's behind it. The last debate he started with the innuendo against Romney, now this. It's got Perry's name all over it.

    October 31, 2011 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  25. 4liberty

    There is many reasons why he shouldnt become president... He supported TARP. His ignorance in immigration and foreign policy. His close ties with the Koch brothers and the Federal Reserve. His flip-flopping on abortion and every other key issue... i cant wait till this "flavor of the month" is out of here because it is very distasteful... Bye-bye Herman Cain.

    October 31, 2011 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
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