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. Another Steve

    First, there were never any allegations of harassment. Then there were false allegations. Then there were allegations which were found to be false and there was no settlement. Then there was a settlement, but he couldn't remember the details. Now he remembers that it was a harmless gesture about her height.

    Mr. Cain's spin doctors have certainly earned their keep today.

    November 1, 2011 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  2. skarphace

    To all those (including the certifiable Coulter) who are blaming the Democrats for this, think about it a while.

    If the Democrats had dirt on one of the Republicans they would sit on it until Obama needed a boost. Since the Republican nominee hasn't even been chosen yet, this is clearly not the right time to use such information.

    Therefore, this is clearly the work of one of his rivals.

    November 1, 2011 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  3. CRB other president's plan for this country, and specifically for this economy and this debt, has worked since the founding of this nation. Why are you setting yourselves up for disapointment? Cain (who is a very good man) is not the guy...sorry. We need more than just a plan for our economy – we need a plan for our world.

    Who has that plan, because that is who you need to vote for.

    November 1, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  4. godott

    To me it boils down to one very simple question: Were the complaints made or not?

    If the complaints were made and if the organization settled the complaint, its hard to argue that this is just a smear campaign. If the complaints exist, they exist.

    November 1, 2011 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  5. Guitfiddel

    So, now that we've established that good ol' Hermys' a LIAR, what else has he lied about and, what will he LIE ABOUT NEXT?

    November 1, 2011 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  6. Jeff

    It depends on what the definition of is is.

    November 1, 2011 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  7. Herby Sagues

    This is a non-issue. Cain is inellectible because he has no clue on foreign policy, very limited understanding of macro-economics, severe misconceptions about tax policy and he's a religious zealot that thinks that the earth was created after some temples in the middle east were built. But this event changes nothing.

    November 1, 2011 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  8. Lenny Pincus

    It says volumes that Cain rushes over to Fox to tell his side of the story. But really, all you right wing victims of the media. Are you so dumb that you can't imagine Romney, Gingrich, Bachmann, or Perry feeding this story to the press? You clowns are so out of touch.

    November 1, 2011 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  9. Morgan

    Look, I already ruled out a vote for Cain based on his simplistic 9-9-9 nonsense, among his other untenable ideas. I'd rather base my opinion of the man on known facts – not some shady, anonymous "personnel" story dredged out of gods-know-where.

    November 1, 2011 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  10. Anna

    I'm a liberal. But I don't jump on every story that gets thrown around about politicians representing the other side. Anyone can make an allegation about a candidate. I won't care until I know it's true. Does it have anything to with their character? Possibly, but I need more proof. If a politician is a harasser, I will have a problem. If they are just playing around, as long as it doesn't affect their ability to run, i don't give a darn.

    November 1, 2011 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  11. rd12

    Cain was history anyway. His 999 plan continues the rights income redistribution plan from the middle class to the wealthy that has been going on since 1980. We need to dial 911 on this guy. Tough luck all you bagger-heads and cult-radio the only viable choice you have is good-old Mitt! LOL!

    November 1, 2011 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  12. Dr.Tong

    So Cain goes having been discredited by ridiculous accusations, and we're left with the antiseptic android Liberal Republican one term governor form Massachusetts, the Ken-doll Mormon candidate, Mitt Romney.

    November 1, 2011 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  13. Shills

    Singing "Amazing Grace" won't get him out of this one. He's toast!

    November 1, 2011 03:51 am at 3:51 am |
  14. Hello

    you lost it Cain.. that abortion comment won your the Flip Flop award of the year.. and your past has come back to haunt you on the harassment claim.. time to get out of the race while you can and go flip pizza's where you belong. Your a loser.

    The honeymoon is over... bye bye...

    November 1, 2011 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  15. nihalsam, switzerland

    You guys sure have your problems. This whole article and all these comments, just about a "storm in a teacup". What are you scared that Mr. Cain might do as your President: Rape Angela Merkel ?

    November 1, 2011 04:57 am at 4:57 am |

    He answered a question with a question. He now remembers a settlement,hours later. Very shakey.

    November 1, 2011 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  17. michaelsm

    Can anyone tell me why raising the concern about Cain is a horror and a travesty but raising the similar concerns about Bill Clinton when he was a candidate was a legitimate issue? Remember, these concerns about Clinton proved true. So maybe, just maybe, they are true regarding Cain. Won't know unless we investigate.

    November 1, 2011 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  18. Madame Stilleto

    For wanting to be president, the guy sure doesn't remember much.

    November 1, 2011 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  19. PJ

    Romney and his staff have something to do with this, Romney is terrified someone like Cain could beat him. Remember Blacks were equated with Satan in the Morman Church until the 1970s.

    November 1, 2011 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  20. Mike

    We need Ron Paul!!!

    November 1, 2011 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  21. smc

    So, basically, Cain's explanation appears to be that he doesn't remember what happened because his people handled it for him? This is a perfect example of how out of touch these Republicans are with the rest of us.

    November 1, 2011 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  22. Jules

    Cain said he "recused" himself from the investigation on the charges. How do you do that when you are being investigated? I took it to mean he said do what you got to do to get rid of it, but I don't want to know about it. I'm sure there are more things that will come out.

    November 1, 2011 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  23. billy jester

    If this disqualifies him from being a viable presidential candidate, then maybe he can be nominated for the SUpreme Court and serve along with Justice Long John Dong!!!

    November 1, 2011 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  24. fronco123

    That's tea party candidates for yow, corrupt and rich. but most of all LIARS.

    November 1, 2011 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  25. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I really have to wonder. He said he was the head of the National Restaurant Association, but then how does he miss this and say that he doesn't remember any settlement? Does this show a problem with not knowing what is going on? I think that it doesn't bode well for him because I would exploit that as a failure of self control and know what his own organization is doing. If people there can do things behind his back, then could you imagine what people would do if he were president (going beyond his policies)?

    @Larry - this so reminds me of Thomas vs. Hill in the Senate confirmation hearing.

    November 1, 2011 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
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