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. Tina

    Please, I ask the writer who put this story together to speak with their editor! So many punctuation and spelling mistakes! I think they were in such a hurry to get this new piece out they decided not to proofread!

    November 1, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  2. Stacey

    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.

    I think it's equally funny that you neo-cons want to blame the Dems, when the Dems WANT Hermy to be the nominee! Go blame the people who have a lot to loose – like the GOP for instance. The tip could have come from any one of the GOP camps. Herman Cain is no threat to Obama. The concentration is on Mittens, not delusional Herman Cain. You probably gave widdle Sawa Palin your money too! Look where that got ya! lol! Poor neo-cons.

    November 1, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  3. Como

    I worked for a fortune 250 for 30 years and personally know of 3 instances of false harassment claims settled out of court. The attornies said it was cheaper to settle the allegation with no admission of fault than go to court even though they were confident the company would win. In each instance the settlements ranged from $15K to $50K. This is probably a smear campaign just like the one the New York Times did to McCain and Dan Rather did to Bush II.

    November 1, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. QueenObvious

    He is never going to be president even if this had not happened.

    November 1, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  5. Observer

    Herman Cain seems to have all the integrity of Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck.

    November 1, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. billy

    Huge mistake should have come clean when this all broke out –too late now !

    November 1, 2011 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. Bytf

    A smear campaign? Cain is certifiably insane and an obviously delusional megalomaniac. May he be left as nothing but a smeared grease spot on the road.

    November 1, 2011 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. jim

    The accepted phrase for black candidates is "high tech lynching". It plays to the sympathies of the last whites still stupid enough to buy into "white guilt".

    November 1, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  9. 999

    The republicans are about to lose their race card holder.

    November 1, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  10. roscoe

    Where is Long Dong Silver? I'm sure he can add more details to this story.

    November 1, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. Joe

    The woman sued over the HEIGHT comment?
    I doubt it....More to the story.

    November 1, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. AC

    why does everyone ALWAYS assume negativity is an attack instigated by the other party ... or keep calling press the liberal media? for fecks sake. Im so tired of the namecalling and poopslinging in politcs! you are all corrupted by something...or you wouldnt be in any position of power. our country – the media, the legislature, all of it is influenced by corporations and money. SDDS.

    November 1, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Oh God, I'm going to say it....
    I feel sorry for him. I do.

    November 1, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  14. blizzardo

    if you cant stand the heat dont run for president... and the last time I checked, when you say smear campaign you imply something thats been drawn out. This is only day 2, this is simply the story breaking and if someone that runs for office who has something like this in his past and doesnt have to at least explain it then lets just have kings and skip this whole process.
    Mark my words -the only people who are going to be dragging this out are those in the right who run against him.

    November 1, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. Wallster

    If you wouldn't hire a babysitter because they lied about their background, how can you hire the President of the United States if he lied?

    November 1, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. Voice of Reason

    I really coundlt care less about what he said to whom 15 years ago... Things can be said with one intent and taken with quite another. I get that. What bothers me is that he said it never happened, then said well something happened, then said well, this is what happened. This is the same pattern we heard from Clinton, from Edwards, from Sanford, and many many other politicians... And it always ends the same way: They're Lying!

    Why didnt he just come clean with the facts in the first place? Why put out there a statement that this is false, when you know it isnt? Why then change that story – not once, but twice – when you KNOW that you are really announcing to the whole world that you are OK with telling a lie!!?!

    Not in a million years, Herman – Not in a million years... It's not the philandering (We've seen our share of that from both sides of the aisle) but its the lying we cannot tolerate.

    November 1, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. Ryan

    I find it hilarious that the Rebubs whined about anything relating to an assertion about racially motivated smears on their part but blatantly state it now. They are a bag of jokers. What a crock.

    November 1, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. klarg

    He didn't have time "in the middle of a busy day" to recount the details pertaining to a story he had known about for ten days! Wonder how he would do as president in an emergency?

    November 1, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. Mx

    This coverage is really annoying and boring (and this has annoyance has nothing to do with my own personal party affiliation!). CNN – you spent an INORDINATE amount of time covering this piece on this morning's broadcast. Please, let's move on and get some real news coverage.

    November 1, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. 2tired2care

    I suggest if Mr. Cain wants to get to the bottom of this he should just look in the mirror!

    November 1, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. jdog

    he is the male 'Palin' – the only reason he is doing this bid for 'president' is to further his public speaking career – GOP lovers watch it – you are being played baby played – and ya all look the fool – just like him!!! Your field of candidates is so weak that this clown is a front-runner – run run run for the hills all!

    November 1, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  22. Barney

    Um, the fact that he's been accused and there was some sort of settlement means he did something wrong. Period. If he was innocent and had the kind of character that we need in office, he would have fought it because integrity and the truth should be put above all else for once. Even if he was innocent, he sacrificed his integrity and comprimised with a settlement so he could survive politically. Shame either way.

    November 1, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. z1

    So best not to hire in the U.S, best to outsource jobs overseas to China, India where there can be no such baseless charges.

    November 1, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. svann

    Is Ann Coulter really accusing Politico of having a liberal bias? Its well known to be very conservative (some would say ultra conservative).

    November 1, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  25. dowdotica

    uh..but..sir...i wa' I is a bizzy, bizzy man...! right! so we want this guy running the country? think i'ma gonna throw in my teaa baggin badge and go join the OWS!lolol

    November 1, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
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