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. Jeff Yorio

    May be he did and maybe he didn't. One thing is true, he knew that the story was out there and didn't plan on it coming out. The conservative TV show's, blogers and radio personalities are screaming "Liberal conspiracy!" as loud and often as they can. Is it? I could also see that perhaps someone or group on the conservative side started this. Hey, how else to hurt someone infront of me in the polls. There are some elements of the republican party, that became republican whenn the civil rights law was passed(jessie Helms, Strom Thurmond). So, yes it might have been liberal interests but it also might have been conservative.

    November 1, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  2. gorddicnn

    What's the big deal. I thought stuff like this was a requirement to be a politician. The more sleazy, corrupt and dishonest you are the better your chances. The American electoral process is a joke and the 24/7 media just enhances the punchline. I'm not going to vote again in my lifetime because I would be better served to take the time of voting and go out to have a beer and some chicken wings. It's more satisfying.

    November 1, 2011 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  3. Just Watching - politics as usual

    "am not aware of any"... , "can't recall"..., "don't know the exact number of $$ of the settlement... maybe 2 months salary, three..."... statements from Herman Cain.
    Let's leave him aside for a moment. Are the right wingers still insisting that this is mudslinging "created" by the democrats??? Or don't you believe your own darling Herman's words???
    Tight spot there isn't it?
    Perhaps we can all agree that we should drop sensationalist news and focus on the ability of candidates to lead this country? Notice, I didn't say "manage". A country is not a business that you run with numbers and figures alone. In that regard, Herman Cain doesn't stand a chance. Even woeing us with his silky (slightly off pitch) voice will do the job.

    November 1, 2011 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  4. S.R.

    This guy is a low life.... he cares nothing about people unless they have money or can do something for him. He is exactly what this country doesn't need!!!

    November 1, 2011 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  5. Expat American

    rand – Wright wasn't running for office. How could you miss that?

    November 1, 2011 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  6. Expat American

    In four years, the GOP could only come up with Cain, Perry, Bachmann and Co.? In as far as their leadership, the Republicans went from Liars and Mass Murderers (Bush/Cheney) to utter spinless buffoons (current crop of the party of Genocide Over Policy – GOP)

    November 1, 2011 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. WILL

    I'm no fan of the guy, but its amazing how when he starts to lead this issue pops up. Its amazing how he's been spouting off for months and no paid him any mind nor challenged what he said, now he's gaining momentum and the dirt starts to fly. I'm no fan but he must be doing something right because now they are coming after him.

    November 1, 2011 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  8. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Someone had to go pretty far to find these nearly 20 year old accusations. While Herman Cain is not my favorite candidate, I still feel he is being steamrolled. The question is this: Who is operating the Steamroller? Democrats who fear he could siphon Black votes from President Obama (based on Cain's statements, that would be like expecting Bill O'Reilly to take the Jewish vote), or the Republican Good-old-boy network fearing that their preferred candidate (Ricky-boy Perry) may lose out to someone with a clue?

    November 1, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  9. Alina1

    The right has declared the war or media for "attacking" this "good man". No values no shame.

    November 1, 2011 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  10. Thor

    Why are Republicans considered to be "religious" these days. Why can't an Agnostic be a Republican?

    November 1, 2011 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  11. Bill

    It's over. Goodbye Hermie.

    November 1, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  12. Robin Bray

    And tomorrow the story will reveal even more as he admits more. It's like a slow death. Just pull off the bandaide quickly and admit you guilt.

    November 1, 2011 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  13. Santa

    He's toast. Better go back to making pizzas They will pay those women double what Cain payed those women to keep them silent, even if it means to bring them back from their graves to testify to the charges.

    November 1, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  14. jack

    Its not a question of whether the accusations are true or not, its how handled the accusation that makes him look bad. He has told more stories than Disney! Each day its something else and the hole just keeps getting deeper.He and his advisors handled this stupidly.

    November 1, 2011 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  15. Raisin Cain

    He should have sung "Swan" at the Press Club. Cain is toast.

    November 1, 2011 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  16. V in Chicago

    It's over Herman. Pack up and go home. Ever since you hit the national stage, you've either been "joking" or what you said was taken "out of context". We're not that dumb. Your jokes were not funny and we saw the interviews and nothing was taken out of context. You and Mitt make a good pair of flip flops. Again, say anything to get elected. Not the way to play the game. . .

    November 1, 2011 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  17. CSM

    I love that people think Politico is liberal. That's one of the funniest things I've ever read.

    November 1, 2011 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  18. carly

    Another one bites the dust! Bye, bye Cain.

    November 1, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  19. carol lowery

    Herman Cain had a 250 thousand new donations yesterday, this folly will not stop his momentum, americans are waking up to these polico tabloids

    November 1, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  20. Broc Williams

    Herman Cain action caused a settlement to be paid out to these women. The women signed a NON DISCLOSURE agreement, so they can not speak out. FUNNY, most innocent people do not pay out settlements. This has nothing to do with Conservative or Liberal. Obama has had tons of false stories lobbed hos way. (BIRTHER CRAP)
    Herman, you are in with the big boysl Maybe you talked to the women about your 999 plan, but it was you 69 69 plan

    November 1, 2011 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  21. Mark of Tennessee

    Where there is smoke there is fire....

    November 1, 2011 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  22. SaveRMiddle

    Caught in a flat out lie. This didn't used to be ok. Should we as parents be modifying that we teach our kids so they can compete in today's world or is integrity just for suckers?

    November 1, 2011 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  23. pig in a poke

    Amazing what lengths the hate filled groups will go to. Next they will be picking through Mitt Romneys trash to prove he uses Greecian Formula.

    November 1, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  24. Sniffit

    "Cain reveals new details about harassment cases, admits settlement"

    Translation: Cain admits to lying about it all day yesterday and CNN reports as if he didn't.

    November 1, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  25. Lynda/Minnesota

    For a man running his pseudo presidential campaign on "honesty and integrity", Mr. Cain sure is pulling out a lot of "I don't recall ... I don't remember ... I don't know" gimmicks from his "personal responsibility" portfolio. Beyond that, there sure are a lot of folks blogging from the right who were hell bent on removing President Clinton from office, yet are willing to give Mr. Cain a free pass of "so what". Fact is, Limbaugh, Coulter, FOX News jumped all over themselves 24/7 to cover the Clinton/Lewinsky fiasco ... and made millions in profit for their efforts. Most likely they don't see the "profit" of condemning Mr. Cain in quite the same way they condemned Clinton.

    November 1, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
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