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. Shannon

    He says he wasn't given a day to think about his answers, well Mr Cain, that is another lie. Political gave you ten days to respond. Are Republicans capable of telling the truth.

    November 1, 2011 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. Clifford S

    Cain scares the hell out of the left, thats what this smeer is all about. Didnt stop millions of people voting tor Bill Clinton twice and he had real affairs

    November 1, 2011 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    To me he is not the lecherous type. His moral crimes are of a different ilk. The power he seeks is over money, not women.

    November 1, 2011 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Stop asking for the acusers to come forward, part of the settlement was that they could not come forward.

    November 1, 2011 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  5. FedUpWithLife

    It's a SMEAR campaign alright and I know what he smeared.....ugh!

    November 1, 2011 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  6. bertha59

    Okay, so we want someone who is slow to recall events? What would Sarah say about this quality in Cain...if he was awakened at 2:00am in an emergency. Oh dear, how long would he take to recall events surrounding the invasion in Afghanistan or Iraq?

    November 1, 2011 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  7. LacrosseMom(real one)

    Herman Cain ANSWER THE QUESTION....... No? Then say goodbye! IF anyone thinks they are going to run for the presidency and not have every square inch of their lives scrutinized then do not run for the presidency!

    Look, every candidate for the presidency is has to be prepared to have their ENTIRE LIVES OPEN FOR INVESTIGATION, IF you don't like this....... do not run!


    November 1, 2011 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    If Cain falters as it now seems likely he might, what will the Tea Party do next? Romney? Sit out the election? Find a another group of clowns?

    November 1, 2011 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  9. Joe Schmoe

    The women cannot come forward at this time due to a gag order in their settlement with the association. Their lawyers are looking into getting this lifted.

    November 1, 2011 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  10. Shirley Turner

    Just what we need. A president that can't remember things.

    November 1, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  11. russinmaine

    I so love the pants wetting fear exhibited by the left at the thought of having to face Cain in the general election. Get used to it clowns because you are going to be dealing with him from now until 2016 and beyond!

    November 1, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  12. David, CA

    Of COURSE it's a smear campaign!!! Doesn't Cain remember the Swiftboat vets or Rove's treatment of McCain in his first GOP bid against GWB?

    November 1, 2011 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  13. pamela

    Any man who has to pay off the women whom he has treated with disrespect is not my candidate for President of the USA. Period
    Let's move one, he is history.

    November 1, 2011 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  14. Melo-D

    Who cares about this?? The guy was unelectable way before this story came out. I hope this doesn't hurt him at all. Give him the nomination GOP, Obama will mop the floor with Mr. apples and oranges.

    November 1, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  15. Kent Bowen

    Darn, I was counting on Cain to muddle the Republican waters for at least a couple more months.

    November 1, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  16. Jim Rousch

    Stick a fork in Cain, as he's no longer Able. Much like one of his pizzas, he's DONE!

    November 1, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  17. Tim

    For those of you who think this won't hurt him, guess again. Clinton's indiscretions occurred after he was elected. Had they occurred during the election, he would have been defeated. Cain doesn't have a ghost's chance of becoming president now. Even if he is nominated, Obama will crush him. We hold our presidents to higher moral standards, even if it is unrealistic. The real loss here though is not Cain. It's the American people who may not even have a choice during the 2012 election. Every Pub candidate has proven themselves to either be a dullard, ignoramus or miscreant. Sad situation here.

    November 1, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  18. klw

    It is unfortunate but President Obama has a very good chance of being elected President again. As a Republican I make the following observations: Michelle Bachman, Perry and Cain are too far right for Middle America to vote for. As seen in their tax proposals, these candidates support the rich while giving little support to Middle America-except for talking points. Mitt Romney is just another politician. He runs a slick campaign that can subtly change its message as Romney sees fit. This country needs a Republican candidate that supports middle America, stands by his or her message, and is not afraid to stand up to rich and anyone else who preys upon the people of America.

    November 1, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  19. Tom

    If he's innocent I hope the issue is cleared up. If he's not, he needs to drop out of the race and I don't understand why candidates keep thinking they can sweep stuff like this under the rug. It could be a smear campaign though, still lots of racial hatred in the good ole us of a.

    November 1, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  20. DC

    This is an example of the huge egos these candidates have. Did Mr. Cain really believe he could run for president without this becoming an issue? Did he really believe this would not become known?
    We now also have Gov. Perry's crazy rantings and reverse Robin Hood tax ideas that takes from the poor ti give even more to the rich. Finally, we have Mr. "Flop Flop Flip" Romney. . Boy, are are we Republicans lucky! I am afrraid President Obama is looking better each day as we learn more about the Republican candidates.

    November 1, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  21. Rob

    Yeah, whatever Hermy. You're toast. Making pizzas and working as a shill for the restaurant industry clearly didn't prepare you to be the leader of the free world - you can't even run a campaign or deal intellligently with the news media. You are clearly in WAY over your head. To make things even worse, you have bad policy ideas.

    November 1, 2011 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  22. Richard

    It's too late. The man has shot himself in the foot. There is now way he can be elected now. Dems know it too and are laughing at the Pubs again. Sad.

    November 1, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  23. Imil101

    Herman Cain is just now realizing, that smiling and saying what the teapartiers wanted, isn't turning out so well.
    The teaparty just used him to make themselves look less rascist to independent voters who are undecided in this coming election.

    November 1, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  24. Fidel

    For Cain everything is a joke. Harrasing women is a joke, building an electrified fence at the border that kills is a joke. Maybe for him running for president is also a joke. And he wants to be president of The United States, give me a break.

    November 1, 2011 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  25. chicagok

    What is with this story. Cain is like Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and John Edwards. The headlines should be "Cain a Democrat". Proof!

    November 1, 2011 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
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