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. Retrostar1000

    Hey, it was just a joke.

    November 1, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  2. Kenny

    OK, so the dude tried to him some on the side and it didn't work. Lesson learned.........Simply because you are in the resturant business, it doesn't mean you can sample all the goodies.

    November 1, 2011 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. Mike

    Flirting with a woman doesn't disqualify him – but this transparent lying – definitely does. We already have enough liars in office.

    November 1, 2011 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  4. Sniffit

    "that's all you have? Deflections about "Clinton and other [D]s"?"

    It works. The right wing is so full of insane resentment and disappointment that the blue dress and Wright's scred didn't work to take down Clinton and Obama, respectively, that they will eagerly conflate the record to remember it all as though those stories weren't shoved in our faces constantly and unmercilessly by the drooling MSM for months on end. Cain's been under the microscope4 on this for all of a day and they're already claiming that the MSM is paying more attention to Cain's misbehavior than was paid to Clinton's BJ escapade and impeachment's quite simply ludicrous, but it works on the people who are predisposed to beleive that kind of nonsense to assuage their confirmation bias in the first place.

    November 1, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  5. Mitt Romney @ Bain Capital posing with Dollar Bill$$ like a Gangstar while shipping American jobs to China

    I want Herman Cain to become the republican nominee...I dont want him to drop out and end this drama that is going on within the republican party!!!

    November 1, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  6. Lindsey

    So why were settlements paid to if Cain is as innocent as a babe in its mother's womb? A settlement is not paid to an accusee by the accuser if the accuser is INNOCENT.

    November 1, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. pprty

    Cain's people knew this would become an issue before he ran. It's not what he did so much as how he handled it after it's out. Makes me not trust him.

    November 1, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  8. keith beard

    Where are these women at ? I mean they could be getting MONEY for their stories right now !!! The media doesn't care about some settlement where you cant discuss the case. TRUTH IS they aren't out talking about it because their probably was nothing to talk about. Politico has him stumbling recalling every female employee that left on bad terms and every comment 20 years ago that could have been taken unprofessional and what do THEY have ???? NOTHING Washington running scared in 2012 .......

    November 1, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  9. Robert Dolan

    Cain is a joke. He is on a book tour, not a serious campaign for President. If he were white, everyone would have written him off months ago. We are so afraid of being politically correct that we refuse to tell everyone that the emperor has no clothes.

    November 1, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  10. Greg

    To all the Cain supporters – let's assume that the accusations were baseless and the NRA paid the accusers because it was cheaper than going to court. Does it bother you that Cain has changed his story several times in the past day or so? Politico contacted his team 10 days before the story was published so there's no excuse for not having his story straight. At first he denied knowing anything about the harassment claims, then he said nothing happened, then he said he never heard about a payoff, then he says he remembers the claim but not the incident, then he gives precise details about that incident but knew nothing about a payment, then he says he remembers the payment. Do Cain supporters not worry about his lack of honesty?

    November 1, 2011 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  11. Remember

    Why do people think it's "the liberal" media making this story? Fox News is pushing this piece harder than most. It seems the GOTP isn't happy with Mr Cain and is more than happy to throw him under the bus.

    November 1, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. mresce

    He settled...I thought tea partiers never settled...never compromised, and stood by their convictions.

    November 1, 2011 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. Laverne

    @ Rand, Really, where have you been under a rock? The press made Jeremiah Wright the focus of Obama's campaign for months on months, but it did not work!

    November 1, 2011 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. Oldie in TampaBay

    another one with selective memory ..

    November 1, 2011 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  15. MIke smith

    Maybe if he just stopped changing his story he wouldn't sound so much like a DC politician that he's trying so hard to pretend not to be.

    November 1, 2011 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  16. Robert

    Cain is finished. His 9-9-9 is juvenile and so is he. Perry is hopeless. Ron Paul is delusional. Romney will win the nomination. The rest of the candiates are along for the ride.

    November 1, 2011 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  17. CaliforniaBC

    Really Herman? Really? A gesture about a similarity in height to your wife spured a harrassment compaint? If that was all there was then you and your company would not have paid a settlement out over that.

    November 1, 2011 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  18. Sarah

    How can anyone truly support Cain, I guess would be my question.
    The list of absolutely moronic things he has said keeps getting longer and longer.
    This is just the latest nonsense with him.

    Seriously, how big of a paycheck are you getting for coming on blogs and news websites, acting like the man can do no wrong when that's all he manages TO do? If by some chance you are a real human being with a real opinion... I don't get it. It defies explanation. Please, do your research. Just combine his name with "federal reserve", "lobbyist", "Pokemon", "housing bubble", "9-9-9 details" and please put an end to your oblivion for the good of mankind.

    November 1, 2011 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  19. JoseTheWrangler

    It's just like Thomas - who harassed Hill and used liberal guilt to claim "lynching" and get a job he's totally unqualified for and in which he has performed pathetically. Cains a blatherer with simplistic ideas who can't face it when stupidity like 9-9-9 is shown to raise taxes on the poor and middle class. With any luck, this will reveal him for who he really is, and the country can get on with its business.

    November 1, 2011 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. thomas

    Whats up America ?

    Cain is not Presidential !

    Perry Ratted Cain out . Watch out people . Rick Perry is one nut job politician .

    November 1, 2011 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  21. unretired05

    Alberto "don't recall" Gonzales must be directing him, might show up as a running mate.

    November 1, 2011 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  22. 5041360

    herman is having problems with his memory- he only remembers what he wants to remember- there is more to come- give it up herman!

    November 1, 2011 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  23. Liz the First

    Don't you love all the rethugs crying foul now that one of their own is accused? the same folks who persecuted Bill Clinton are now defending this sleasebag. once again the 'right' proves itself to be the epitome of hypocrisy. how many times does Cain have to change his story before folks wise up to the fact that he's an empty suit playing at running for president? he's probably just using this campaign as a glorified book tour. can't believe the rethugs are dumb enough to fall for.... oh, yeah, that's right, they are.

    November 1, 2011 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  24. mini ron paul

    Cain flip flops more than pancakes at ihop. This just the beginning, you will see more of the same from him and then he will disappear like his mentor sarah palin.Im with Tsuh on this one, where is his wife? Does he have a family? I guess the Republican party is his family. They will take good care of him while he blames liberals. Cains 9 9 9 tax plan cannot possibly work when you analyze it. It would have been better applied 30 years ago. Compare it to Forbes flat tax plan and you will see what I mean. Repubs think they can win an election by citicizing Democrats. Have you noticed Obama doesn't waste time by attacking his critics. Hes too busy working for the people.

    November 1, 2011 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  25. Anonymous

    People are so naive. If this was a smear from the left they would not have released this information now.It's to early and clearly the only people that could benefit at this time or certain conservatives and the other GOP candidates. The only possible value for the left would be after/if Cain won the GOP nomination and was in the general election. The other thing is Cain is a pandering clown and the left is not afraid of him.In fact they would love him to be the the GOP nominee.

    November 1, 2011 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
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