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. mommytwice

    His response was asking the interviewer if he'd ever been accused of sexual harrassment?? Well, now, that's not answering the question, is it, Mr. Cain? I doubt the interviewer is running for president.

    October 31, 2011 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  2. The Harley man

    This happens in every race for president. It's nothing but HOG WASH. This man, ( Herman Cain ) will make one hell of a President. Herman Cain will pull the U.S. out of there problems. I suggest that you pay close attention to this man.

    October 31, 2011 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  3. volksmaniac

    All information is rumored innuendo . The women were only after money , or there would have been charges filed . Dig a little harder Politico . See if you can come up with a story that is not given you by anonymous sources .

    October 31, 2011 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  4. mommytwice

    He didn't answer the question, now did he? Hmm...

    October 31, 2011 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  5. LegendRx

    Here they come, here they come!

    October 31, 2011 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  6. Greg

    Good thing the Dems taught us that sexual indiscretion is the hallmark of good leadership.

    October 31, 2011 06:49 am at 6:49 am |

    Unless this story ends with a male member, a mouth, a blue dress and the oval office, Dem's have nothing to complain about.

    October 31, 2011 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  8. Inquiring Mind

    So Cain acted like an Alpha Male – no surprise there – anyone who thinks they're good enough to be a Prez has to think they're the next best thing to sliced bread to all females; it comes with the territory.

    I think it's more important for the media to start asking =deep= questions about his health, however. Is his cancer STILL in remission? Why did he slow down campaigning? Is he undergoing chemotherapy and, if so, does it affect anything important to be being Prez? And so on...

    October 31, 2011 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  9. Roger

    1. I don't like Herman Cain at all, However it has nothing to do with this nonsense.
    2. I HATE anonymous sources. They are either
    A. liars
    B. betraying a confidence they were trusted to keep or
    C. both.

    October 31, 2011 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  10. Indy

    With these two women getting a five figure payout, it going to be very difficult for Cain to claim innocence and on the other side the women probably cant talk about it as per their agreement and payment so this might just wash away.

    October 31, 2011 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  11. Jim O

    Ok here we go again; time for the media's annual attempt to influence the outcome of another election. Can Fox and CNN please start discussing the issues that matter to the public and stop the self promotion of thier own political agenda's? Both networks are once again losing their credibility when dealing with political campaigns. Grow up! The American public deserves better more balanced reporting. Another example of why we are the laughing stock of the world!

    October 31, 2011 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  12. rdarkchild

    Did he really think the Republican Party would let him be their standard bearer?
    Cain blames the media (that’s what republicans do when they get caught) but the powers that be in the party decided that they had done enough minority out reach.
    Back to the kitchen.

    October 31, 2011 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  13. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    If there were signs of a hostile workplace before, it could happen again. Is this going to turn into another Thomas v. Hill situation. I hope not because Prof. Hill was really treated badly. I hope that these women can can come forward to tell their stories. I wonder if there was some confidentiality clause in there.

    October 31, 2011 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  14. m

    He had 10 days to come with an answer after Politco approached him with the accusation, he did not have an answer – that means he is guilty as charged – he needs to go back to making burnt pizzas

    October 31, 2011 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  15. RTB

    So the Pizza guy is a dirt bag with a history. Not only are his policy ideas stupid, it appears that he is not too bright.

    October 31, 2011 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  16. Njfinest2009

    I often wondered why you never see Herb's wife in any of his photo's? Well if in fact he is guilty of any thing inappropriate he can only blame himself for opening that can of worms! He didn't have a shot at being POTUS anyway!

    October 31, 2011 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  17. W.G.

    So He´s a PERVERT !! It figures the tea party would like him . Their as perverted as humans can get .
    This is the problem with the GOP , Business men cannot solve our problems they make them worse .
    Look at the republican proposals concerning illegals in Georgia and Alabama . Both states are losing
    millions because their crops are rotting in the fields . We don´t need another George "W" Bush in the
    White House A buffoon of sorts . We need a Statesman . Who puts their country above party lines .

    October 31, 2011 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  18. SAJ

    First, if this was in Cain's past, why would he take the chance of running for high office if this was in his back ground since nothing remains a secret in politics? Second, if Politico knows the names, they need to report them. Otherwise this is similar to a McCarthy like threat.

    October 31, 2011 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  19. mike petersen

    Bill Maher is laughing so hard he might need help. There goes the flavor of the month.

    October 31, 2011 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  20. Tom Mariner

    Welcome to the terrorist warfare that is Campaign 2012. Every "news" outlet is reporting, not on their substantiated facts, but on an allegation on a political blog!

    October 31, 2011 07:33 am at 7:33 am |

    He will just pull a Clarence Thomas and call these charges a "high tech lynching" – yea, we remember that Clarence. You will go down as the worst Supreme Court Justice ever – EVER!

    October 31, 2011 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  22. T in Dallas

    Herman is starting to wake up from his dream...he really thought the GOP wanted him...sucka

    October 31, 2011 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  23. BEn275

    HAHA HA So it begins. I love the bloodletting during the presidential race. I can't wait for the GOP to destroy itself.

    October 31, 2011 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  24. 1crusader

    Cain's response is insufficient.His campaign staff has called the charges" unsubstantiated". That's not a denial.Cain hasn't said"It didn't happen".This is serious; and he shouldn't be flippant with the media about it, or attack it for doing its job, as he did yesterday, but answer the charge directly.

    October 31, 2011 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  25. Conscious

    Yes we CAIN–t ...believe he's an actual candidate for president.

    October 31, 2011 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
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