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. TamarS

    of course cain is lying. edwards lied. sanford lied. clinton lied. it's human nature. big surprise – cain is a flawed – okAy, very, vrey very FLAWED) man! sorry – did he not know he was human?

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

    What a joke. What an embarrassment to the same people you dissed.

    November 1, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  3. cannoli

    One post says its the godless socialist liberal media that responsible for this. Another blames it on so-called Women's Liberation. The someone else says its a hatched job by Karl Rove.. Who next, Sponge Bob Square Pants. Cain is not a serious candidate for President, does not have an organization and just wants to promote his book and up his speaking fees. He's almost as amusing as Sarah Palin, and just as transparent. I remember when there were serious candidates running on the Republican ticket, and political discourse was about more important ideas than what did he know and when did he know it. Cain has more problems with his campaign finance scandal, due at a theater (or blog) near you later in the week. When you all get tired of this childish and non-productive nonsense, maybe you can actually listen to the candidates platforms and send some grown-ups to run the government.

    November 1, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Cain is finished

    November 1, 2011 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  5. davedoesdall

    she's going public for more money right?

    November 1, 2011 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  6. Bob Ramos

    First off, I am a Democrat but proud that the USA can seriously consider people of all races for President.

    Cain has to do everything he can to put this behind him. If takes half measures now, it will be the "death of a 1000 political cuts". The story will not go away. The best things he can do are (1) through his attorney, urge the NRA to release everything and to waive the constraints of the "agreement/settlemen/whatever". (2) sit down with interviews with respected news hosts like Wolf, Wallace and whoever and answer their questions fully and honestly. If he leaves things unanswered, the story will continue. If he does not do these things, he cannot survive politically.

    November 1, 2011 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  7. thomas

    Sorry state of affairs ! When this great country believes in a snake oil salesman such a Cain , It's time to pour billions into the education system .

    He's a minstrel , a showmen , purveyor of bad pizza for the low income fast food nation ..

    And you want him as president ?

    November 1, 2011 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    If the accusers want to be forthright in their claims, and can substantiate them.......let them come forward. Surely having to return some cash is not a problem, when they want it?

    November 1, 2011 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  9. Jason, Chicago IL

    Why does this continue to be a story? He was accused of something, probably. Might have been legit, might have been groundless, but it never made it to a court of any kind. The supposed victims took a settlement in order to keep their mouths shut, and now one of them is trying to break that agreement.

    November 1, 2011 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  10. svann

    If Cain is clean he should talk to the NRA and have them give her permission to talk.

    November 1, 2011 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  11. ithink122

    "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."

    "Martin said POLITICO gave Cain's campaign 10 days to respond to the allegations."

    I don't know about you, but I at least want my politicans to do me the courtesy of making an effort when they lie to me.

    Cain should have known when he chose to run for President that these kinds of things would come up and he should have been prepared for them. Even then. the truth is they gave him plenty of time and a chance to explain himself. If he simply took a day to think it over, put a press release together explaining the entire thing and didn't leave anything out or lie about any of the facts, this probably would have blown over by now. But he chose to act like they blindsided him, keeps changing his story and is playing the "EVERYONE IS OUT TO GET ME!" card when there is absolutely no evidence that either his fellow canidates or anyone on the left had anything to do with this. That is simply not how a Presidential candidate acts. You are supposed to act rationally, tell the truth, remain calm and only make claims based on evidence, not wild theory.

    Ask yourself if this is how Cain handles this situation, do you really want to see what happens if you put him in charge of running the country?

    November 1, 2011 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  12. Idealism

    The memory well runs short on politicians, especially from the Republican side of the aisle. Gary Hart was ousted from the democratic nomination in '84. The real problem is the non-disclosure clauses that prohibit any real investigations to the allegations.

    November 2, 2011 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  13. Earl Lee Jones

    I agree with Herman Cain. This is surely a smear tatic, because he is now considered a front-runner in the campaign, it's nothing but dirty politics and we all know it.

    November 2, 2011 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  14. Charles Bowen

    Republican'ts Eat their Young! Is Cain Able? Stay tuned and we'll know soon. Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    November 2, 2011 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  15. mm

    Wonder who's paying this women off? I mean if they felt so hurt when this incident happened, would they have opened their mouths if the guy was running for something? Some chick is always looking for her moment of fame. Can't believe it. I'm not condoning what he did...if it's true. Just wondering if this chick would be so hurt and speak out if the guy wasn't running. I suppose she will also go for a book deal.

    November 2, 2011 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  16. Lis7

    Is it his hubris or early-onset memory loss that appeals to conservatives?

    November 2, 2011 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  17. ComeBreakMe

    I am no way, shape, or form a Hermann Cain supporter. Still, I am sick and tired of political attacks like this. Even if the allegations are true on some level, who the hell cares? This incident occurred in the 90's well before this man even considered political office. The only reason Cain's opponents want to try and milk this story, is because they haven't been able to find any concrete evidence that this man has been involved in any sort of relevant scandal. While this woman only wants her 15 minutes of fame. Like she is really "hurt" or bothered about something that allegedly occurred over a decade ago. Please...she's just chasing dollar signs. Anyone with half a brain can see this. really pains me that we have to go through this same old song and dance year in and year out with public figures. Our society is so twisted and backwards. What is said is that it is only going to get worse...This is only the beginning...

    November 2, 2011 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  18. mm

    Anyone from his high school or college days? I'm sure there are worse stories to be told from those times.

    November 2, 2011 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  19. peter

    Can is lying, he will eventually admit it, meanwhile, he's going to drag himself and everyone else through the mud.

    November 2, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  20. peter

    Pathetic. Not just Cain, but those who insist on supporting this obvious liar.

    November 2, 2011 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  21. Andrew

    You are sooooo outta here, Cain.

    November 2, 2011 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  22. reallyrob

    Obama will destroy Cain in an election! Destroy! Obama 2012 is looking easy so far.

    November 2, 2011 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  23. Dan J

    If she had such a compelling case, then she wouldn't have resigned with a five figure settlement. No one that is "intelligent" would have done that. And now, she sees dollar signs. Watch how quickly she and her lawyer disappear if Cain drops his presidential bid.

    November 2, 2011 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  24. Jennifer Pruitt

    I am voting for Cain in 2012, when he runs against Obama

    November 2, 2011 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  25. Geoff of Houston

    Given that Cain is the Republican front-runner at this time I suspect this story was "leaked" by one or more of his opponents. To suggest that the Democratic party had anything to do with it is plain ridiculous.

    November 2, 2011 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
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