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. snowdogg

    Can you say FLIP/FLOP ???

    November 1, 2011 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  2. MTATL67

    As a CEO, a motivational speaker & a radio show host he knows you need to be prepared before you make statements. Especially regarding this issue. If he wasn't prepared to address this. How prepared would he be to handle the issues that face the office of the Presidency?

    November 1, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  3. Han Solo

    As he himself says- he has noone to blame but himself. LOL

    November 1, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  4. Buster Bloodvessel

    Liberals afraid of Cain? Please, we beg you to run this cat for the highest and most difficult and responsible job in the world! Not even Sarah Palin or the witch lady would be easier to defeat. Even Mittens might get a few votes in his home state. Oooh, I'm shaking in my boots at the mere thought of a cigar-smoking clown as your nominee.

    November 1, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  5. 1CentFree

    Welcome to the REAL side of politics Mr. Cain. Your dog and pony show is now officially over. Time to get serious.

    November 1, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  6. Rob

    Smear campaign? Like the kind the Repugnicans have done to EVERY democratic president in my entire life? Clinton's entire 8 years in office, Obama ("We'll do nothing but smear him so he doesn't get re-elected"). This is not a smear campaign. They are valid events from real people. Get over it you stupid hypocrites! Get a CLUE you Repugnican idiots (yes, I know that's an oxymoron – any republicans can look that up on the internet to get a definition).

    November 1, 2011 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  7. Big Jilm

    I love how you lying "compassionate" conservatives keep blaming Democrats. This story was first published in a rather conservative rag. Right now, it's other conservatives at each others' throats. The Dems (and the White House) couldn't give too cents because Cain isn't a threat to begin with. He can't even explain his own plan! He also shoots himself in the foot with voters. Just keep giving him the mic; he's already insulted his own race, Latinos, and the poor.

    Why would Dems be smearing this huckster when we want this one to win the Republican nomination? If it were really the WH behind this, they would have waited to spring this during the general election, not while Republicans are in-fighting. Do you conservatards even think about what you are saying? Obama will destroy any of the Republican fools, not because he's a great president or anything, but because you conservatards are soooo stupid.

    November 1, 2011 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  8. MiketheElectrician

    Yea Cain, something else smears as well, lets wait for the "blue dress". He said he didn't have a day to think about his answers, yea, it always takes a day to come up with consistant lies.

    November 1, 2011 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  9. Expat American

    It was not Democrats or Liberals who ‘outed’ this story about Cain. It was Republicans – because they know that their voting base will never vote for a black man. The GOP leadership would never try to change the racism and bigotry that makes up their very base – they would rather sacrifice a candidate first because of his skin color. They can’t afford to alienate the (R) voters who just won’t vote on Election Day because Cain won the nomination. They need a white face on the podium.

    First things first, GOP (the Party of Genocide of Policy).

    November 1, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. Joe

    Why are women so sensitive to Cains' compliments?..Give him a break....Let CAIN BE CAIN!!!
    To all Republicans...let's look for another anti-Romney candidate cause Cain is done....we still have time to come up with someone else...let' s about Palin or Rush Limbaugh or Huckabee? or may be let Obama have another term have another term since us Evangelicans and Baptists can not stand Romney from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints....

    November 1, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. Plueeez

    Yes, this man should have possession of the nuclear launch codes. Let me see, 9..... 9...... uh, crap! Can't remember that last one.

    November 1, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. one voice

    Need a day to keep your lies straight?

    November 1, 2011 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  13. Typinator

    I'm not Republican or Democrat, but this does not sound legitimate. The statement coming from the accusers is that Cain's statements made them angry and uncomfortable. Good God! Haven't these women ever come out of their cave? Every boss I've ever had has made me angry and uncomfortable at one time or another. Matter of fact just about anyone I've become familiar with including family and even some passing acquaintances has made me angry and uncomfortable. It's political B.S.

    November 1, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  14. NYC1972

    So, let me get this straight, he says a few comments we all hear everyday at work and some lady takes it in the wrong way and he's not a presidential candiidate – um, you going to have to give me better than that – our "savior" Clinton got pleased in the oval office while OSAMA blowing up americans – hahahahaahhaha – and you people jumping all over it, joke

    November 1, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  15. mike

    Yeh Right!!! If it was liar, liar pants on fire there would be an inferno about now. "Gradual Recall", we sure in the "H" don't need that in a U.S. President.

    November 1, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  16. tstorm

    How is it a "smear campaign" when it's something that actually happened. These women actually accused you and you actually paid them off. That's the simple truth. The "smear" campaign is you, Cain, trying to sweep it under the rug like you're too important to be bothered.

    November 1, 2011 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. Wally Wolf

    This guy is a fraud. He's a motivational speaker that hit the big time, but he doesn't have the experience or knowledge to become president of the United States. He's lying about recalling the harassment suits and his memory only works when it has to. Of course his accountant can tell you anything you need to know. Please! He wants to eliminate social security and keep the rich getting richer. Why? Becausse he's oone of them. Let this guy go. Take off the hook and throw him back in.

    November 1, 2011 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  18. Greg

    Ah, so now Cain says that the problem was that he was not given the opportunity to "to think about it" for a day or so before answering questions, and that's why his story appeared to change during the day. Hmmm. I guess we can go ahead and elect him President, then, because Presidents never have to deal with anything unexpected. He'll always have the opportunity to think about it for a day or so.

    November 1, 2011 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  19. manhandler

    He says his contradictory response was because he was surprised by the story? Exactly what about a 10 days notice is a surprise?

    November 1, 2011 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  20. ethandy

    ... and the dog ate my homework... and .... and..

    November 1, 2011 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  21. DavidE7

    The disgraceful way the media is promoting this story could get Herman Cain elected President. That might be a shame because he might not be qualified. But we will never know as long as the news media prefers scandal and smears to news.

    November 1, 2011 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  22. DavidE7

    AndyBorowitz reports that Rick Perry has stated, that if Herman Cain is innocent, he should be executed.

    I think that is about the right level at which to respond to this attempt by one of Cain's rivals to eliminate him from the race.

    November 1, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. Emmy Skaddittle

    I love how everyone is asking for the names, so what you can destroy their lives more than cain already did?

    November 1, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  24. Scott S.

    I don't think he'd have been voted in anyway, even if his slate was squeaky clean. Fact of the matter is, he has poor ideas and doesn't care about the middle or lower classes. His ideas benefit one type of person: rich.

    November 1, 2011 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  25. us1776

    Just what we need.

    Some guy with a bad memory to interface on the international diplomatic scene.


    November 1, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
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