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. Washington Observer

    This is all nonsense - it is a wonder anyone would run for national office in this country.

    November 1, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. United We Stood

    If Herb had exhibited this behavior at the other NRA this wouldn't have happened, it'd be settled in a duel: Ricky Parry packing heat style

    November 1, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  3. joco

    I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday. Is this all they could come up with against Herman! There're getting desperate.

    November 1, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  4. woodofpine

    A 'smear campaign'? Republicans – swift boat their own? NO!! At least Cain was born in America!

    November 1, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. United We Stood

    Herb was just joking: using some poor pizza humor. Asking about favorite toppings like the sausage or maybe the salami. Who knows, maybe he was peddling a monthly special for 9.99....
    Herb going up in smoke like a bad commercial.

    November 1, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. Walt

    Cain was notified over ten days ago that Politico, a conservative leaning publication, planned to run this story. Yet Cain's memory evolved only over the course of 12 hours.
    This was a GOP hit, the Left wants him in the race. The gambit here is to have it both ways; frag the Tea Party favorite of the moment and to get the GOP hive mind echo chamber to circle the wagons and blame the big bad leftists. That way the Tea Party faithful won't turn on the GOP establishment for fragging thier guy. All the data points are right out there for anybody with the intellectual integrity to think for themselves. Or, you can let Big Skipper Limbauagh and the News models at Fox News do the thinking for you.

    November 1, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. coy4one

    Does this not sound familiar? Do you remember a Mr. Edwards who constantly denied allegations as well, only to find our he lied through his teeth. If Cain's ordeal what not that big of a story, then why would these two persons be given settlements? This stinks and the press should dig it out. We don't need another Clinton-type fiasco in the White House.

    November 1, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  8. Russ139

    The iceberg tippeth

    November 1, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  9. PaulWisc

    Why did he skip the part "...and then I grabbed her honkers"?

    November 1, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  10. sortakinda

    Three to six months's severence–and? and?AND? "Oh, yes, free pizza for life and no-limit refills after paying for the first soft drink," Herman Cain now recalls the additional details.

    November 1, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  11. kanui

    You know there are a lot of republicans out there hating it because there is a black man at the top of the list...and their list at that!

    November 1, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Orchid333

    I don't like Cain much but come on, this is unsubstantiated, and it's from 12 years ago. Is this really relevant to his qualifications to be president? No. He's buried himself on much grander things than this.

    November 1, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. AM

    I believe he probably grabbed some booty he shouldn't have. What's interesting is how rightwingers are terrified of having Another black president.

    November 1, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    T'sah from Virginia
    This is all part of the "vetting" process. People who run for president should have NO skeletons in their closets.
    So you say. lets see, barry had plenty of skeletons! Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, Bernadette Dorn and a record of voting " present " over 350 times in the Illinois Senate. Those look like A LOT of skeletons to me!

    November 1, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "Who cares if he did or didn't that's between him, his wife and God."

    And maybe the woman he victimized too?

    November 1, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. rizzo

    This is all nonsense. Cain is unabashedly for the rich and against the middle class, as evidenced by his regressive 9-9-9 plan. The fact that he's even considered a serious contender for the GOP nomination just goes to show how few good people they actually have.

    November 1, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  17. Busted

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Personal Accountability. Well at lease as viewed by republicans.

    November 1, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. Cassandra Chu

    Of course it's a smear campaign. That's what our Secret Service really does. Sorry, Cain, but you're not one of the "chosen people"

    November 1, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. kayaker247

    this guy is toast. this is bad news, his tax plan is bad news and his position on abortion is bad news. he's bad news, just like the rest of his republican kook parade. he'll be gone soon, and the kook from texas won't be far behind him.

    November 1, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  20. Red

    No, no and no. I've already made up my mind about him. He referred to "democratic plantation". We can't have a president who thinks he was a slave. And our tax system don't need changed, it needs fixed. Too much of our tax dollars are leaving this country, yet I see more and more homeless people everyday.

    November 1, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. nathan

    Its laughable. Too busy to recall when you had charges against you? An agreement is different than a settlement? He's banking on the average TP's HS education to make this go away.

    November 1, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  22. LeeCMH

    At least Cain did not get caught playing footsie in an airport men's room.

    November 1, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  23. JohnRJohnson

    Herman Cain's candidacy is a "smear" on our entire political system. The man is nothing but a glorified brand manager from a packaged goods company, who became a radio host and motivational speaker. He has zero credentials for ANY public office and seems to have no understanding of his own positions on the issues of the day. His 9-9-9 plan would be catastrophic to the middle class and his stand on abortion is a pile of steaming contradictions. Worst of all, Cain is in the back pocket of the Koch brothers, two fascist industrialists whose father was a founding member of the John Birch Society. The apples did not fall far from the tree.

    November 1, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. MaxNatoma

    I'm willing to bet that all those defending Cain where leading the charge to crucify Clinton over Monica Lewinsky. At least with Monica, it was consensual.

    November 1, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. bluedogboy

    Obama is such a solid guy. He would never be involved in something like this.

    November 1, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
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