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. Steve

    When will a man stand up and acknowledge that they find some women to be attractive, and they think it "innocent" to compliment them, and sometimes to make comments that serve like chum when fishing for a little excitement, and that they very much regret their moral failing and apologize profusely for having caused disinterested women great discomfort and loss of job.

    November 1, 2011 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  2. Bytf

    Cain is simply one lie after another and wouldn't know either reason or the truth if they slapped him in the face. Come on, republicans – even you can't be so foolish as to fall for his lies, though with so many of you voting for and supporting Scott in Florida, that jury is still out.

    November 1, 2011 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. Mark

    Recurring theme here and no one is picking up on it. Cain, repeatedly keeps putting add-ons to stories and comments he makes about a range of issues. This story is creeping up on him in classic, 'only reveal details if I have to' mode. Well, it ain't going away.. and all those poor hard done to conservative commentators out there, can you imagine if Obama had, had these allegations out there before the last election; can you imagine the focus on it over, and over, and over again. Pathetic!!!

    November 1, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. A.Rom

    I don't understand all the democrat and press bashing from some people here. This came from another one of the republican candidates campain. Why are they bashing on the press and the democrats?

    November 1, 2011 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  5. Mark

    Amazing how he 'remembers' more stuff as the story fills out. Suppose it was only a 'joke' hey Herman!

    November 1, 2011 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  6. Papalevi


    You wrote "As far asd I see the middle class and the poor (especially) pay very little taxes for I am one of them. You get most of your money and if poor, all of it back plus some at the end of the year"
    What country do YOU live in. I am working class and I surely DO NOT get most of my money back at the end of the year. Who does your taxes. Can I get them to do mine (as long as they are not falsifying claims, don't want the IRS on my back, watch yours)

    November 1, 2011 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  7. saftgek

    Herman Cain has shown his true colors.

    It is amazing the lengths candidates will go to B.S. voters. Mr. Cain has already demonstrated how unfit he is for the White House, from a policy point of view. Now, he has punctuated his lack of fitness by the nonsensical blathering he and his staff have spewed in trying to dodge a HUGE issue for him.

    Let's move on. Clearly, irrespective of his flaws, Mitt Romney is THE candidate for the GOP. Dump the rest – embrace the only viable candidate the GOP has to run against President Obama. The race will run – there will be a winner (of sorts), and life will go on.

    Reminds me of a popular song by The Byrds: "Turn, Turn, Turn."

    November 1, 2011 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  8. Houstonian

    Though I lean liberal, I think the latest assault on Herman Cain is a little overboard. HLN's attempt to portray the dude as though he should always be on top of ALL the stuff he has gone through in his life and to spew them out in a flash upon being cajoled is sickening. CNN, don't go the way of Fix...sorry Fox News...

    November 1, 2011 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. Zelda

    Ok, Herman, thanks for playing!

    November 1, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  10. Done

    Cain's error was in lying right from the start. "Yes I ran the organization, but no I don't remember a cash settlement with any female parties regarding.... myself." "Oh you have a copy of it? Okay, it's all coming back now. I kind of remember that."

    What a lying turd. Plenty of those to go around. Nothing special available with this guy.

    November 1, 2011 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  11. Bayousara

    If Cain can't remember all these allegations and money dolled out, how will he remember things about his job as president of the United States and leader of the world? This guy is too dang old to be starting out as president! He'll be another year older when he actually takes office. He also has really disgusting anti-women views on abortion. We don't need to go backwards!

    November 1, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  12. Thatguy371

    As more time goes by, this delusional wacko will remember a few more details. People don't pay out money for nothing. There's a reason these women received 5 figure settlements.

    November 1, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  13. RINO Bil

    Considering they knew for two weeks that this story was coming, Cain and his staff did a VERY sloppy job of handling it and haven't quite gotten it out of the way yet.

    Hopefully Herman, or some else in his campaign, will learn from this fiasco.

    November 1, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  14. Teller

    This is just a network time killer engineered by Perry and/or Romney. The political season is too long so they don't want people picking at them the whole time. They killed time w/Bachmann, they are killing time w/Cain, they will come up w/some other diversions before they turn the gas on each other much closer to the actual election. Theater.

    November 1, 2011 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  15. Wylie Mike

    Herman Cain is going about this all wrong.
    This is an example of why Tort reform is essential. Too many cases are settled because it is too expensive to go to court to defeat frivolous accusations or charges.
    The medical service providers, business executives, and even clerks at grocery stores have to be Politically Correct at all times to avoid frivolous charges. The accusers know that medical providers and any institution that want to keep legal cost down will settle out of court; especially when the settlement is less than the attorney fees.
    If anything, the Restaurant Association should go after those that brought this into the public forum and demand a refund on the basis that the settlement is now violated. And if necessary take it through the legal process to prove out Cain's innocence.

    November 1, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. shannon g

    So now Cain admits he knew about the allegations. Why lie when you know that your background is going to be dug up? If you didn't do anything wrong just admit the allegations took place, now you go and back track that mess you created.

    November 1, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. Brian

    So these women received large settlements for unsubstantiated charges. Sounds to me like some gold diggers saw an opportunity and took it. If they really were assaulted why not get the guy locked up? at least release your name and shoot down the guys presidential campaign. Instead they hide and enjoy their ill gotten loot.

    November 1, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. Cedar Rapids

    "rand – Reverend Jeremiah Wright..................Obama's RACIST preacher never got this much PRESS and SCRUTINY.............HHHMMMM.wonder WHY............. main stream media?????
    Oh that's pick and CHOOSE your TARGETS................"

    you were sleeping through the election then huh? I mean that must be the only way you missed the stories.

    November 1, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  19. duh

    funny how people hold this against him when all he MAY have done is used some poor choice of words around some overly-sensitive females (or were they looking for any payday opportunity?) but yet everyone loves and adores Clinton who actually did the dirty and lied under oath???? hypocrites.

    November 1, 2011 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  20. Cedar Rapids

    'Now that I have had a chance to think about how to BS what happened I can now recall a lot more details.'

    November 1, 2011 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  21. Belarius Marek

    Does anyone else see that this man is dangerous and not fit to be a president? I am not referring to his alleged sexual harassment. I'm referring to him in general. His character is severely lacking.

    November 1, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  22. basketcase

    First he knows nothing and won't answer any questions. Then he says he remembers the allegations, they were unfounded, and he knows of no settlement. Now he remembers the allegations, some of the basis for them, and remembers a settlement. What's next?

    November 1, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Still no reports on Cain's campaign machine breaking election and campaign finance laws, huh CNN? DISTRACTION DISTRACTION DISTRACTION.

    November 1, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. The Real Tom Paine

    AS Herman said, lighten up: after all, its only the most important job in the world he claims he wants, not running the 10th ranked pizza chain in the country. Boy, I'll bet Al-Queda is quaking in their boots at the thought of Cain coming after them.

    November 1, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  25. A Repulbican

    This is the time where true character is tested, and I mean for us republicans. Rather than bring up other politicians personal failures or how democrats were ok with those falures, we should say, Cain, this is not acceptable, and we as republicans willl not tlerate this behavior. Let's stop the responses you'd get from a 5-year old, "hey he did it too." Like I say to my 5-year old, just because they do it doesn't make it right or accetable for you to do, period. It just so amazes me how grown adults use the same argument, just say its wrong!

    November 1, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
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