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. Janer52

    so now he remembers. amazing.

    November 1, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  2. A.

    Did someone on this board really just refer to Cain as "brilliant" and "educated". You've got to be kidding...the man wants three page bills. It's sad that he's a serious contender for either party's nomination. And what's this he's saying that critics can't attack his 9-9-9 plan? That's all they've been doing...because it's a stupid plan that would totally kill the middle class. Next, please.

    November 1, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. JetsJets

    His Lack of memory, or his selective memory is cause to NOT vote for him. Maybe he is beginning to get dementia. Not a good thing for our Head of State. Of and by the way for those that mention he should be able to face his accusers, he already did and he paid them off. He I guess in a way he admitted that he did something inappropriate. He is not going to get elected anyway so do not fret for him too much.

    November 1, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  4. Johnny 5

    Well he's done for. Ron Paul is the better pick anyway.

    November 1, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  5. Marie

    Cain... Go away already.

    November 1, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  6. LovesHemp

    The man is a buffoon and to think he could seriously challenge President Obama in anything makes me question the intelligence of his supporters.

    November 1, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  7. griff griff

    I'm a democrat and I do not like this at all!! Whoever brought this to the fore should be ashamed of themselves, whether they be democrat or republican. He's having a little success and all of a sudden, someone blindsides him with some old allegations. Even if they were true, those people had reached a settlement and that should be the end of it. This is an old political trick and I don't think there's any place for it in politics. They played it with Pres. Obama and his birth certificate, when they could not find anything else in his background that could condemn him. And Lord only knows how much they tried to dig up. Depending on how far this goes back, it could very well be a non-issue.

    November 1, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  8. LovesHemp

    Did Herman Cain notice and comment when one of his male colleagues changed his hair?

    November 1, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  9. Coptic Cop Copying

    Herman Cain lost a long time ago. Who does this guy think he is, really anyway? If it wasn't for our the media giving him modesty for all of his nonsense, he is a laughing stock on the streets and in every home. Cain thinks he can win the hearts of the people like Obama did by enlisting himself with controversial issues that specific groups support. Herman is not African American, but artificially Black American. Nice try Herman, you are such an entertainer! Go home and make some American pizza.

    November 1, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  10. Padraig

    Wow, sexual harrassmanet is stating someone is the same height as his wife. Time for America to grow up.

    November 1, 2011 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. Rich

    The women won't come forward. Confidentiality and non-disclosure requirements in lawsuits make this impossible. People will have to make up their own judgments on this issue. Either it will bother you or it won't. It will either detract from his character or it won't.

    November 1, 2011 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. ty

    politico who posted the story has said that over a week before they released the story they notified the cain camp of it. so cain has had tie to recall the story and the campaign had time to get their story in order. the fact that they have changed what they "REMEMBER' in a 24 hour period shows what a joke the cain campaign is. cain is a loser like clarence thomas. race is not the issue. lies and cover up are

    November 1, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  13. The Dude

    Where is his wife? How come we havent heard from her? It all sounds pretty hush-hush to me. I will not vote for Cain as it all sounds flimsy...

    Oh by the way, he has no government experience, none whatsoever. Why are people even touting him? Stop wasting my time, and get Herman Cain out of the news!

    November 1, 2011 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. Matt

    Wow, people jump to his defense almost as blindly as people jump on the throat of Obama. He's a politician. He's no more or and no less crooked than any other politician. The story that he just "forgot" paying out a settlement (probably hundreds of thousands of dollars) is just plain BS. It's a matter of strategy and planning. It's how elections are always run. People asking to see the accusers won't get to. Settlements always come with a gag order. They would love to make themselves publicly known, but legally they aren't allowed to. And there is no "right to face his accusers" here, as this is not a legal action. Chances are, the victims didn't even come forward, it was just some well funded research group that dug this up. This is classic political theater. This is how stuff gets done in America.

    November 1, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. John

    He doesn't remember being sued for sexual harassment. If he doesn't remember that then what else has he forgotten? I don't want someone that is so forgetful as a president.

    November 1, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  16. frag

    First, he doesn't remember anything, then he remembers the conversation........................heh! What?????? Herman, really, do you think we are all stupid? Now that he has given out details of the encounter, it won't be long before the women are named, interviewed, and they tell us thier side of the story. So much for 999.

    November 1, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    Did you do it...did it happen Cain?


    November 1, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. miriam chorev

    every aspiring candidate knows that in these days he/she will be vetted and every little detail of their past will be found and used. I am no fan of Caine, but from what i read, even if it is all true, it is not a major thing. he did not rape anyone, he simply acted like a macho man. It was inapropriate and he should have apologized and compensate. the fact that he was not ready for this possibility and the fact that it took few interviews for him to speak sort of honestly about it, makes me doubt if he can handle the scrutiny of a campaign and the presidency.

    November 1, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  19. Eric Richardson

    So is this is an indication that from now on no man will in the future give a compliment to a woman? how sad. Is this the type of culture we wish? Have the lawyers won after all? I somehow believe that women do and can make the distinction, with intelligence. Chivalry and romance is dried up and left for dead in our nit pic times. Turn off the TV and explore your own strengths and weaknesses. Become a citizen of a proud nation.

    November 1, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. Man about town

    The smear campaign against this man will not work. Who cares if he did or didn't that's between him, his wife and God.

    November 1, 2011 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  21. coach

    Great job vetting the candidates CNN. I guess you learned you lesson from not vetting the guy we have in the White House now.

    November 1, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. Scott

    Straight out of the Rove playbook... Creat a liberal "straw man", then attack yourself and blame it on "them". The attention (publicity) will be enormous. And you come out and act like you've been put upon, and everyone feels sorry for the black conservatives that liberals hate/attack.

    Buys Cain at least two more weeks in the spotlight. Truth is, I haven't heard any liberals attacking Cain. Just his Republican brethren. I did though, hear one commentator say that the Tea Party likes Cain, because they know he's a black man that knows his place. I'm inclined to agree.

    November 1, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. Greg

    "I am unaware of any settlement," Cain said at the National Press Club on Monday. "I hope it wasn’t for much, because I didn’t do anything." But later in the day, Cain changed course, saying he did know details about a settlement."

    He's through.

    Imagine how long and hard the enemies of Barack Obama must have searched for something like this. They must have turned every stone. They found nothing. There was nothing to find.

    November 1, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  24. maggie

    Whut? Ann coulter is still around? That wretched beast has no clue who tipped off the media any more than I do. She may very well find that someone else's campaign is behind it or worse, someone in the Republican establishment none too pleased with his surprising rise in the polls.

    November 1, 2011 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  25. EddyL

    Why would even run for office if you had this stuff in the background? Talk about stupid.

    November 1, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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