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. Hoofleau

    If there was a pay off, someone is due a refund !!

    November 1, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  2. david in seattle

    The Republicans kept his chances alive as a prank. "See, we can have a black man too". Now that the prank has gone awry, they have to end it fast. Kind of like Frankenstein'/s monster.

    November 1, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. AJ

    C'mon Herman. You had to know this would come up. Presidential run is the big leagues. There is no way this wasn't going to be mentioned by someone.

    November 1, 2011 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  4. John

    There goes those liberal using the things we say and do against us. It's not just being a pervert that is the problem here, he keeps lieing about it. Proof he cannot be trusted with anything else. Next!

    November 1, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Mike in Montana

    Fast coming in to the presidential race and fast going out.. What else has he forgotten or NOT told us and the news media, about himself and his past. Interesting question.. Lost my vote. Mike in Montana

    November 1, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. J Mihovski

    The Cain Train will not be derailed by this Rovian plot, go Herman!

    November 1, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. John K

    "But later in the day, Cain changed course, saying he did know details about a settlement."

    You mean after being asked by reporters about the settlement, he called his lawyer to learn the details of the settlement, and afterwards he then knew the details of the settlement? FLIP FLOPPER!

    November 1, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. Brian

    Geez, how many times is this man going to flip-flop on numerous subjects before (or IF) he even gets the nomination?

    – He denied any knowledge of a settlement for the sexual harassment charges, then said he did know.
    – He said he was against abortion in cases of rape and incest, then said he was "pro-life with exceptions", now he's "100% pro-life".
    – He also made changes to his oh-so-simple "9-9-9 Plan", by making exceptions to people living below the poverty line and creating "opportunity zones" for areas with high unemployment and poverty, which would allow jobs to be created in those "zones", therefore raising revenue and keeping people from remaining poor. Doesn't sound so simple now, does it?

    This man can't keep his story straight about ANYTHING. I wouldn't trust him to run a candy store, let alone an entire country. He won't be getting my vote. Then again, no Republican gets my vote.

    November 1, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. yuri

    Adios amigo. You look like a goner.

    November 1, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Jim

    I'm amused at the assumption that this was orchestrated by the Democrats. The other GOP candidates have a lot more to gain at this point then the Dems and it smacks of a Karl Rove revelation. I would be willing to bet a large amount of money that the "tip" came from another GOP campaign.

    November 1, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. Harry From Pa

    The funny thing is Herman Cain is a flip-flopper, oh I don't remember a settlement and then later that day he goes oh yeah I remember. It's a sign people, that means this Gentleman is going to tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear, not what is best for this country. I don't trust any of these candidates, they are not even focusing on any of the issues that matter, yes taxes are an issue however so is everything else, yet those haven't been even talked about because they are too busy with attacking each others character. In this case when you know someone is exhibiting some kind of behavior and you turn a blind eye to it, don't feel bad when things happen that we should have caught from day one.

    November 1, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. Molinechuck

    Isn't it funny that these women have nothing to say until election time? The left tried this garbage on Clarence Thomas because they are terrified of the thought of a black conservative making it in the world of politics. I am sending Herman a check.

    November 1, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  13. OldRightRep

    This is only even being brought up because the electorate is to stupid to realize that 9-9-9 is fundamentally flawed. Regressive, not revenue nuetral, and it provides another way for the federal government to tax.

    Not to mention the guy is no where near the outsider he claims to be. He was a former Charimen of the KC Federal Reserve, an adviser to the 96 Dole Campaign and 00 GWB campaign, ran for Senate etc.

    And even if that wasn't enough, he is being sued for his actions while on the board of Aquila where they engaged in Enron-esque energy trading and bankrupted the company and lost all of the employee's pension funds.

    Amazingly, only his sexual harassment gets any coverage.

    November 1, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  14. DA

    Now we get to see how dirty the campaigns will get, I would like to know if it was Perry or Romney that released this info (because I doubt that politico did the research)? LOL!!! But here is the sad part what goes around comes around and that should serve as a lesson to all them. Given how Cain heck, for that matter the other candidates too and their matter of fact talk, need to be real careful because things tend to come back and bite you in the butt!!!

    November 1, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. DoNotWorry

    Having worked with a lot of high level men in my 30 years, most of them think flirting with you and hitting on you is doing you a favor, even when they are married. In a way it always seemed a bit innocent to me... they are all so DUMB they think you should be flattered by their annoying attention. These guys want their way and sometimes they want the woman, but just as often they want the woman to be "flattered" and give them what other thing they desire... like extra work, preference over others in scheduling, etc. These people are, for the most part, users. They use everyone around them to further their career and inflate their ego. He probably did not meet with his accusers, more like a law firm handled all communications. The women involved were required to sign a nondisclosure agreement, which all corporations require when they are buying their way out of trouble in any arena.

    November 1, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  16. FactCheck

    It wasn't the crime.. it was the cover-up. It's always the cover-up. If he had come clean when this story first got out, he might have suffered a little flack but that's about it (like Perry and the name of his hunting club). The fact that he can't keep his story straight from one day to the next speaks volumes about him.

    November 1, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  17. Mike Smith

    I don't care if he slept with a sheep. He's still just another neocon right wing whack job cashing in on political PAC money.

    November 1, 2011 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  18. Jake

    i have a feeling he'll be recalling and remembering many more details in the upcoming days. this should get out the conservative Christian female vote for him!

    November 1, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. Marco

    Cain misunderstood. He thought they said HarASSment so he deined that. What he did was HARassment. He admits to that.

    November 1, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. FactCheck

    You baggers that think Politico is the liberal media need to get your heads out of your rear ends. Do a little homework or at least, look it up on Wikipedia.

    November 1, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. Wally Wolf

    This doesn't surprise me at all. It's bad and he's been denying the facts by saying, "Not to my knowledge" or "As I can recall since it's been so long ago" etc. etc. No "Yes" or "No." As the facts as laid out in front of him, his memory is miraculously improving, as required. But this scandal is nothing compared to Perry's double dealings in Texas, which is all laid out for the public to read at the Rolling Stone website. My favorite is "Rick Perry: The Best Little W- in Texas." Do yourself a favor, go there and educate yourself.

    November 1, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    He's a goner. Just watch; they are virtually always right. You do not need any polls. Intrade was astonishingly accurate regarding the 2008 elections.

    Right now, Intrade has Romney WAY out in front for the Repub nomination. Cain and Perry are being wiped off the board.

    I predict that Romney will run and that Obama will win. Obama/Biden (or maybe Obama/Clinton?) 2012!

    November 1, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  23. Beth

    Mr Cain says that part of his problem is he is so likable. Of course that would make people not like him. Most of us can't stand likable people. First he says he doesn't remember the whole thing, now he does. If this is the only such incident in his life, I would think it would be burned into his memory. To be "falsely" accused of any major offense would be unforgettable to most of us. But Mr Cain claims it was just not a big deal to him.

    November 1, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  24. Erik

    He's somewhat likeable, but he's out of his league. His positions aren't contemplative or deep. Go back to being a motivational speaker.

    November 1, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  25. kinglywarrior

    Remember, this is other Republicans digging this up. Not that we needed another reason to say buh bye to Cain, but when you flat out deny, then repeatedly soften and start to remember detail after means your lying.

    November 1, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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