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. bluemax77

    Clarence Thomas ring any bells...?

    November 1, 2011 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  2. Jason

    If either scandal is true, I will never eat a Godfather pizza!

    November 1, 2011 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  3. Jason

    He should quit his campaign race while he is still ahead and leave before more more ghosts come out of the closet. This is embarrassing.

    November 1, 2011 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  4. Really?

    The left is not afraid of Cain. If he gets the nomination half the GOP base will stay home. They won't vote for Cain for the same reason they hate Obama. This "smear campaign" is coming from the right.

    November 1, 2011 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    Cain's not at the GOP debate tonight because of these revelations – and Romney's not there because he is the source of the leak.

    November 1, 2011 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  6. Anthony Heyward

    Good for him. President Obama is my next President. You have been used Herman, now crawl back under your rose colored glasses rock. 🙂

    November 1, 2011 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  7. Kelby

    Everybody needs to calm down. Cain is running for The REPUBLICAN nomination. Things like facts and indiscretions of the past don't matter to this party. The ONLY thing republicans care about is what sounds good and who can beat Barack Obama. That is there goal. That is their stated mission in life.
    Republican voters will disregard these accusations if they believe that people are stupid enough to vote for him.
    So, move it along people! There is nothing important to see here

    November 1, 2011 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  8. Kent Bowen

    Let's see, 12 years ago I can't remember what I had for lunch. But as a married man, I could probably remember who I had for lunch.

    November 1, 2011 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  9. phil

    Herman Cain talked about the case and is making statements about the settlement, that legally releases the women to speak now. The NRA should relase the young ladies to speak about the situation and release the agreements. If he did nothing wrong, then why will he not release the agreement? Unless he has something to hide or be embarassed about.

    November 1, 2011 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  10. lgny

    So... which tabloid is ready to pay whatever the victim has to pay back for violating the settlement in order to get the story?

    November 1, 2011 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  11. ProfPaul

    Adios, Herman. You were funny while you lasted.

    November 1, 2011 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  12. Moe NY

    Too bad this woman took the money instead of bringing charges against Cain. Hate it when money talks and justice walks.

    November 1, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  13. BADGUY

    Come on! Cain is "history". Let's concentrate on Romney and __________?

    November 1, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  14. Ghostinshell

    I don't care about this smear campaign or tactics... Can he run the country or not?

    November 1, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  15. old bear

    i have others i would rather see get the nomination, but i couldn't care less about this. i didn't care about clinton's stuff either. if we expect the president to have no skeletons, then we will have to elect someone who has tried and done nothing in his whole life. we just did that twice with bush and obama and it's not working out too well.

    November 1, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  16. Whatever

    hmmm another Black frontrunner starting to be the beat the pants off the good ol boys... how nice they try to smear him now. Could care less as he is the only that makes sense. Then again the GOP as usual is messing up and will help get Obama re-elected cause of their lack of planning and execution.

    November 1, 2011 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  17. Radgast

    Everyone knows, that – One of the qualities a president has to have is to be able to lie to the public. Mr cain you are not a good liar.

    November 1, 2011 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  18. M.K.

    If either of the women comes out they had better be careful, look at what the Republicans did to Anita Hill. They were led by the holier than thou Senator Danforth. What ever happened to him. He is probably in the South Seas somewhere living like a King on all the money the Thomas backers gave him. Thomas is dumber than a sack of hammers, yet he is in a position to make decisions that effect millions for many years to come.

    November 1, 2011 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    cast the first stone….any of you for a incident in which you thought wasn’t harmful…but 12yrs later is. Cast the first stone!

    November 1, 2011 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  20. BettyLiberty

    It is suspect the way these allegations from so long ago just came up. However, this won't be among the reasons why I will not vote for Herman Cain. The way he ripped off all his employees at Aquila Energy is way worse than these allegations. His flip-flopping, support of TARP, he's a Federal Reserve insider, tied to the Pillsbury family, nah! I've been fooled too many times.

    November 1, 2011 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  21. BADGUY

    Too bad Cain is history....It would have been "nice" to have him running against Obama. We could have moved all the Democratic Party's campaign funds to the 2016 election.....AFTER we insure no DIEBOLD voting machines are allowed in the 2012 run!

    November 1, 2011 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  22. mdb1218198320

    this is beyond ridiculous... have we really degraded to this?????

    November 1, 2011 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  23. Brad5013

    If Herman truly was a 9, the ladies wouldn't be complaining . . .

    November 1, 2011 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  24. SB

    Yup.. bring it on .. Nice time to sell that ticket when market is hot for Cain... Who is not behind money .. People are marrying to make a fortune.. and drop it in 72 days..not a big deal to bring the past to light when market is ready for it.

    November 1, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  25. JoshMaxus

    Well Herman Cain I'm sure it has nothing to do with your race and rolling with the GOP. What's that? There is no racial subjectivity. Watch you're little GOP presidential launch twist in the wind and fizzle to a landing – in some marshes.

    November 1, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
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