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. unsub

    if they r black women then Cain survives, but if they r white?....Oh No!

    November 1, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  2. John

    The allegations are inconsequential other than giving a little insight into Mr Cain's personality in how he handles this crisis. So unless something else comes up, this is just a distraction. The real issue is his lack of qualifications for the job. The presidency is not the CEO of a company. He cannot hire or fire folks for congress. He cannot make law, only suggest proposals and use veto power. He would be the Commander in Chief and help set Foreign Policy. Cain talks about fresh ideas. If the best he and the team he chose can muster is a 9-9-9 plan which when analyzed by both both economists and the lay person as a disastrous suggestion, it is clear that we have a major competency issue. We need "good" fresh ideas not "bad" fresh ideas. That is not the type of leadership that we need for this country.

    November 1, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. Jim

    I think what's missing here is the fact that the National Restaurant Association found enough dirt to settle the claims. Believe me, you don't get 3-6 months salary when fired from a job, you are lucky to get 2 weeks. While I don't particularly like "Anonymous" sources, something here stinks.

    November 1, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  4. rufus

    More and more, people will (or at least they should) realize that Ron Paul is the only candidate with integrity.

    November 1, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. Lando

    Does not remember the incident 12 years ago...bull
    Amnesia? I doubt it....those incidents will haunt anyone with a conscience.

    November 1, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. buke56

    the only people that would plant a story like that are the GOP hopefuls running for POTUS. Not that its beneath the Dems to do such a thing but they dont have to do anything to Cain or his GOP opponents, tto discredit them to the voters, theyre imploding all by themselves. I mean c'mon Cain referred to the Middle East as "Becky Becky Stan Stan" and his 9-9-9 proposal is so ridiculous it has Dems, Independents and yes even most members of the GOP laughing hysterically on the ground spinning donuts. 9-9-9 = 0-0-0 chance as POTUS. ISaying the Dems planted this story to make Cain look bad is like saying someone planted a story on one of the guests on the Jerry Springer Show to make th Springer look bad. You cant make this stuff up. LMFAO

    November 1, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. Jon M.

    Some of you need to get on the first bus out of Republican Fantasyland. First, Politico is a conservative news organization. Always has been. I know the kneejerk reaction to bad behavior by a republican is "LIBERAL WITCH HUNT!," but that does not outweigh bad behavior.

    Second, I can PROMISE you, liberals don't care one bit about Herman Cain. In fact they LAUGH at you for letting him get this far in his charade of motivational-book-tour-disguised-as-presidential-run. Everybody else can see it. If you want to look for who's behind this "smear campaign," go sniff over in Mitt Romney's corner. He's been awfully quiet these last few days, as if he's waiting for the smoke to clear...

    November 1, 2011 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. Unbelievable

    Are you guys nuts? The Hermain Cain campaigne was notiified 10 days prior to this hitting the news about this. He had at least 10 days to come up with a story that would have been coherent. Instead he decided to lie about it and then his recollection kicked in and some of you guys believe this crap.

    November 1, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  9. Dreamer96

    If the story is true, it is not a smear campaign, it is venting a candidate. Spreading lies about someone is a smear campaign, like when Karl Rove spread the lie that Bush's opponet in a Texas Governor's race was a gay women...That was a smear campaign..

    November 1, 2011 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  10. Lando

    Ask Karl Rove or Mitt Romney....or Perry or Bachmann

    November 1, 2011 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  11. Immoral Republicans Abound

    9 = % personal income tax
    9 = % corp income tax
    9 = % sales tax
    9 = Herman Cain's IQ 😉

    November 1, 2011 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  12. JRH

    Even if he couldn't really remember, you don't issue blanket denials one day, then change your mind the next day and "start to remember". Who does this moron have running his campaign, and do we want the likes of them running the White House? With nuclear weapons? I don't think so.

    November 1, 2011 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  13. Derek

    Smear campaign or not, republicans certainly can dish it out but when it comes flying back at them... they cry like little baby's!

    November 1, 2011 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    from the article:
    His campaign told CNN on Tuesday that nearly $300,000 was brought in from online fundraising Monday.
    Too bad the harassment story overshadowed what would have been the real Herman Cain headline. Improper fund raising and campaign finance law violations by the Cain campaign centered around his smokin' campaign manager. It would seem that a non-profit donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Cain campaign. Any sort of political activity is strictly forbidden for non-profits, much less donating money and services.

    November 1, 2011 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  15. *

    @Anonymous -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!

    Obama voted "present" 139 times. And it was all a matter of public record. Not that it has anything at all to do with Cain. Facts are things you fundies like to play fast and loose with.

    November 1, 2011 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Wouldn't it be something if it turns out he cheated on his wife, got someone pregnant, paid someone to keep it quiet, and *paid* another for an abortion out of NRA coffers instead of his own pocket.

    November 1, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. LacrosseMom(real one)

    Honesty is the best policy, but obviously Herman Cain does not live by this rule.

    Bye.... bye....... Mr. Cain.

    November 1, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  18. gelbkreuz

    this whole thing is friggin' sweet.

    November 1, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Welcome to the GOP, Herman. By the way, are you trying to tell anybody stupid enough to believe you that you would have forgotten about an incident like this or even remotely close to it and run for POTUS and not have it turn up?!?!?! Really?!?!?!?! Ever heard of Clarence Thomas?!?!?!?!

    Of course, you're stunned this would happen to a Black the GOP, right?!

    November 1, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    A five-figure settlement/agreement is minimal? Wish someone would throw a settlement/agreement at me!

    November 1, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain

    "If the story is true, it is not a smear campaign, it is venting a candidate."

    The verb it "vetting," but we know what you mean ... and I agree with your analysis.

    November 1, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  22. bartonfunk

    This is a smear by Politico. But, a Republican backed Drudge Report smear. The problem for Cain is how he is unable to answer the same questions the same way twice. He says things – even in the same press conference – that are totally contradictory. He wants an electrified fence, then he does not, then he wants one, then he was just joking, unless you really want an electrified fence and then he was serious. He didn't know about these allegations, but then he knew, but he will forget by tomorrow. He is for laws outlawing choice, but then he wants choice for his family but then he just wants to deny choice to everyone including his family too. He is unable to be President as he cannot be consistent – either due to memory problems or lies.

    November 1, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  23. LacrosseMom(real one)

    PS. Gotta love the FACT that the Teapublicans (aka GOP) got nothing........ not one coherent candidate. They are all nuts.

    With the possible exception of Jon Huntsman and he is too liberal!

    OBAMA 2012....... YEAH........ WE CAN DO IT AGAIN!

    November 1, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  24. LJB

    These are FACTS; so how can he state: 'This is a smear campaign'

    November 1, 2011 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  25. Sobermind

    First Rule in Politics: Get your story right
    Second Rule of Politics: Show integrity to your cause
    Third Rule of Politics: Don't feed into the media
    Fourth Rule of Politics: If your Black, be prepared to get hit hard, but if your sincere and know the game well, then sit down, write out what it is you want to do for this country, how you would like to do it, and you plan on doing it. PERIOD.
    Everyone that seeks an office should know WHY they are running, stick to their outline and move on. CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES WISELY, becasue you will have to fight .....ITS A TEST OF INTEGRITY.

    November 1, 2011 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
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