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. reality

    Another conservative caught with his pants down.

    October 31, 2011 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  2. mike

    The Tea party would back Hilary before Herman.

    October 31, 2011 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  3. pinarello

    How convenient. Cain starts to gain some traction, and the smears start coming in.

    We all knew that this was going to be an ugly election

    October 31, 2011 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  4. Kenny

    So the man decided to get a strange piece and approached the wrong women. Politicians do it all the time until they get caught. Then they didn't do it and they apologize to all involved if they were offended by the action he claimed not to take. If there wasn't anything to the claim, why then were two women given five figure settlements to keep quiet and leave the Association? I think what they are referring to as severence packages were in fact "HUSH MONEY PACKAGES" but not to worry, I suspect his wife took care of him for those indescretions or she will take care of him if she is just finding out about them..

    October 31, 2011 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  5. Not fooled

    Why does he automatically think it's Washington establishment? It could be one of his Republican rivals who dug up this story.

    October 31, 2011 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  6. Henricus Henkes

    The best indication of future behavior is past behavior!

    October 31, 2011 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  7. Rob

    “I’m not going to comment about two people that you won’t tell me who they are. OK. That’s like negotiating,” Cain said

    So, Herman, are you saying there were more than just these two? Do you need to know their names so you can get your story straight before answering the question. The simple fact is this, "Did you or did you not act inappropriately?" It's a simple yes or no answer, don't try to answer like all politicians do – never give an answer.

    October 31, 2011 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  8. Jules Mermelstein

    The response by Mr. Cain and his campaign remind me of a scene from "All the President's Men" when they define what a "non-denial denial" is: "They doubt our ancestry, but they don't say the story isn't accurate."

    October 31, 2011 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  9. ANita Hill

    Actually don't care if he was a philanderer 20 years ago. Although it would not be much of a surprise. Corporate men do usually have those issues. DO care that he does not have one single quality that would suggest he is in any way capable of being president. Not even a congressman. Or even mayor of Wassilla Alaska.......

    October 31, 2011 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  10. anthony graham

    Chin thIs a joker.
    So he like to play.

    October 31, 2011 05:24 am at 5:24 am |
  11. works4me

    Hey... it's Halloween. The ghosts are bound to come out of the closet.

    October 31, 2011 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  12. kathy

    if there is no truth behind the story then why did these 2 woman get paid .?i am quite shure there is more to this than what he is telling us

    October 31, 2011 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  13. Terry

    I continue to wait for the real GOP Candidate to appear. Up until now, all I see are the clowns. Bring on the elephant.

    October 31, 2011 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  14. Deep North

    Here comes the Mud!

    October 31, 2011 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  15. Amber

    Here we go. The media and the DEM machine doing their best to dig up dirt since they can't challenge Cain on his plan for America. This is the dirty underside of the political process. In a way, I wish that the GOP would just try to dig up the same or worse type of dirt on Obama. Somehow, there's always the PC issue that seems to allow one party free reign and chokes the other one. Could it be this is the brainwashing that has gone on for generations? Isn't this the true nature of the DEM party? Isn't this sort of thing what they always do? Seek and destroy? Palin, Joe the Plumber and countless others? If you don't agree with the DEM party and its socialist/communist agenda, you're public toast, or a racist. They will lie, cheat and steal for the vote. They will diss the big corporations and then be celebrating huge $$$ fundraisers at celebrity homes. The DEM party and its sheeple talk out of both sides of their mouths. OWS has the backing of ACORN, yet they communicate on devices made by big corporations. The mentally dysfnctional people of the DIM party must be stopped cold in 2012....and beyond, if we are ever to return to true prosperity and a favorable economic environment for busines, NOT GOVT, to grow.

    October 31, 2011 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  16. Switters

    Cain was merely emulating one of his heroes – Clarence Thomas.......

    October 31, 2011 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  17. Chris

    Ever notice when there is a negative news story about a Republican, all those on the Right immediately dismiss it as some sort of conspiracy from the "liberal media." Yet those same people when they receive an anonymous email about Obama, they take it as the gospel truth.

    October 31, 2011 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  18. kathy

    maybe the headline should read WHY WAS HE TOUCHING MORE THAN THE DOUGH ?

    October 31, 2011 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  19. mike petersen

    Not surprised at all. No respect for anyone that is not like him.

    October 31, 2011 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  20. Occupado

    We've got 10 percent unemployment, rising inflation and an overall state of liberal malaise and all the Democrats have are 30 year old allegations of sexual harassment.

    Of course, if Cain were a democrat, these women would already be outed as cheap trailer trash.

    Is it 2012 yet?

    October 31, 2011 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  21. Marie MD

    Time for the comics to use that after smoking ad smile and put it to good use.
    Not surprised though. Look at thomas and he is a fart in the supreme court or the various other candidates, Edwards, with mistresses and sanford (now a faux news darling) leaving his boys bdhind on father's day to hike the argentinian, oops, no the Appalachian.

    October 31, 2011 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  22. DOS

    Not sure what this has to do with governing and leading, but if we're looking for sainthood in our candidates as a requisite to being POTUS, we'd have an empty field. I don't like Cain and wouldn't vote for him based on his policy stands and poorly developed and thought out views, which seem to move from day to day based on the wind.

    October 31, 2011 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  23. Julie Ericksen

    Undoubtedly this is a revenge action from the planned parenthood mob...

    October 31, 2011 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  24. pamik

    I love how BEFORE the elections, all this sexual harassment, thievery, etc. is dredged up from the pasts of those running. However, once in the office of the President of the US, none of this seems to matter, i.e., CLINTON, KENNDY and more. It doesn't matter which party or what color the person represents, there's always going to be ghosts in the past. Unless the person actually has a CRIMINAL past, let's leave it there,,, in the past.

    October 31, 2011 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  25. Jaynicia

    Hmmm..."Republican in inappropriate sexual behavior..."

    In other news...

    October 31, 2011 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
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