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. Dave

    This guy never had a chance anyway. Why is this news and who cares?

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

    Not a fan of the manbut his supposed accuser should shut up and honor the agreement she signed.
    So tired of people coming out of the woodwork making claims against politicians, clebes, etc just to get their name/face in the news. Everyo9ne has indiscretions in their past and if it were not for an overzealous media and idiot people wanting time in the spotlight no one would pay attention to most of it.

    November 2, 2011 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  3. Electroguy

    Lol. Liberals love it when a Republican is human and has faults, but will not admit that Democrats has any.

    November 2, 2011 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  4. Michael

    Ladies, always keep track of every person you work with. You never know when one of the might run for President and you could make a quit buck by making stuff up. Kinda weird that she's suddenly ready to talk, after all that time. Perfect timing, huh?

    November 2, 2011 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  5. Aaron

    Right or wrong, the second a candidate declines to answer a question due to "legal implications", that person is toast. It's not fair, but such is life. It makes you look guilty to the general public. A lawyer understands it; a politician understands it; but to the general public, it looks like you are hiding something.

    November 2, 2011 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  6. Joker18

    Yep someone else said it and I will say it too. Remember the Clarence Thomas setup!

    November 2, 2011 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  7. william fitzwater

    In a sense the person who was paid off should just speak out. yea what are they going to do to her. air the dirty laundry and go on. This is a in fighting with in the Republican ranks . by using this scandal they hope it can run Cain's campaign off the rails. So what's to him ; I'm surprised by this mans aggressive character that he would push his aggression towards female employees ( that could be construed as harassment ) ( then again it could gold diggers at work as well ) . Now harassment clams who knows and thats the point . It might be nothing then again systemic character flaw . however for his candidacy to succeed both sides need to air the point of view and the public can reach its own view on this subject. I just feel this has becomes a very much a side show. We need to focus on what matter. Now as a Democrat I'm more eager to see which candidate wins ; my fear is meddling from our side. I feel were in a sense forced into captive audience as this mans true personal nature is revealed ; its happened in our ranks as well Edwards etc. Strong charismatic leaders who have feet of clay.

    November 2, 2011 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  8. izy

    another reason to NOT vote for any of these candidates, Obama you have my vote, he did harrass that lady and hes hiding behind lies, but thats politics, shameful, just shameful, another 1 percenter trying to go over the system and get away with it.

    November 2, 2011 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  9. lance corporal

    I was accused of theft ONCE in my life about 20 years ago now, the case was pretty quickly dismissed and I did not do it BUT if you asked me about it I could recall almost every detail without fail and QUICKLY. there would be no gradual memory..... I don't know how often the rest of the world gets accused of things but I know in my life it was a big deal, it is hard for me to imagine that anyone wouldn't "remember" being accused of a CRIME or the details of it, I could tell you the name of the so + so who falsely accused me in an INSTANT and I think any INNOCENT person could

    November 2, 2011 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  10. Michael, Kansas City

    Liberal/conservative aside, black/white aside, political/business background this the best our country can come up with? We SHOULD skip past all these richie riches and career politicians and elect a competent citizen.

    November 2, 2011 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  11. Ian

    Innocent until proven guilty. If there was evidence it would be one thing, but giving this story so much airtime without any is a smear campaign. As a democrat who will not be voting for this man, I say stop this nonsense and focus on what matters.

    November 2, 2011 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  12. Al

    These broads really need to stop trying to ruin guys lives. So what if he harassed you, I don't think trying to ruin his career is a fair retaliation.

    November 2, 2011 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  13. DoNotWorry

    Funny how the religious right doesn't seem to care that one of their candidates has not one, but two s. harrassment payouts over a short period of time. So this is is okay with your religion? This is the return to family values? When are those of you who are sincerely hoping for a return to Christian ideals going to get that the people on that stage in the debates are not Christian, nor are they good citizens. They are bad people wrapping themselves in the flag and waiving a Bible that they do not believe in for political expediency. You shall know them by their fruits.

    November 2, 2011 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  14. Scott

    There is always three sides to any story, what both parties think happened, and then what actually happened. He will be the next president and mainly because most Americans are tired of having non working, lazy, leeches feeding off those of us who work, when it comes to spreading the never works, those who work get tired of working so others can be sustained. While a free market economy might not be perfect socialism is definitely not the answer...look at all of the social programs in's that working out for them? You want to be prosperous...get a job!!!!!

    November 2, 2011 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  15. Shady

    Are you people serious ? So you would let your daughters or wifes work on his campaign staying in different cities and feel good ? As some of you point out, that what he has done has nothing to do with running the country, then lets see whats available in the prison population. Idoits ! This man has selective memory, cannot remember 12 years ago,LOL. If the man has issues like that, how could he become president. He might forget where D.C. is. Cannot be a smear campaign if he is guilty.

    November 2, 2011 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  16. flavoter

    Herman cain has made quite a bit of money with this politics for money scheme that many are into now days. And now we see his escape hatch that totally get him out of the game. Nice one Herman talk about a marketing tool!! $$$$

    November 2, 2011 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  17. clark1g

    democrats and liberals believe that character is irrelevant as long as the person can handle their job well ... they don't care about perjury, or actual sexual acts by very senior leadership with subordinate interns .... but they pretend to get really angry about conservatives that are reported to have committed a single verbal harrassment by an anonymous individual 12 years ago. Hypocrits .... all of them!

    November 2, 2011 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  18. Emily

    Some of you really think _liberals_ are behind this? Democrats want Cain as the nominee because they think he'd be easy to beat in a general election. Whereas Perry and Romney both have reason to go after him. If any political group is behind this, it's likely to be Republicans. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. We need all candidates from either party thoroughly vetted before they can be president.

    November 2, 2011 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  19. michigan

    We all smell a rat, but only time will tell. Might as well withhold judgement until additional solid information is available.

    November 2, 2011 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  20. Mpajibo

    We need job, Herman Cain past life is not going to help those that are unable to feed their family because of the bad economy. Therefore, I careless about his romatic life. This nothing but distraction to divert from the real issues. This is politic at its best, if you are wining your opponent must slow you down by bring out past issues.

    November 2, 2011 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  21. realmike

    So is this a smear or an opportunist looking for money?

    November 2, 2011 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  22. Timothy

    Sorry Cain supporters, but he is done, this will make him toxic for the Republican party to run. You may not have a issue with him being a old perv, but those women out there do, and these women will talk, some media outlet will pay their legal fees, and Cain is done. He should have been done a long time a go, I signed up to his site a year a go, I've watched him become this hubris filled pre madonna, and this charge fits him, this is why he never really even tried to win, he was selling books. If Republicans run him, Obama will be so glad, because Cain would give him the race. SORRY CANDIBOTS< ITS OVER.

    November 2, 2011 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  23. KhalidB

    trying to run for president with NO experience in politics is like trying to run 100 meters in the olympic games with no training and no running experience...Cain, its time to get out gracefully. I knew something wasnt right about you.

    November 2, 2011 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  24. Mark

    @Jim but they are not really anonymous sources at all. You have two women, bound by a confidentiality agreement that can't speak even if they want to. I could see it called anonymous if it were just spurious emails sent to Politico with no supporting evidence – but these are real cases. And it sounds like Cain is trying to paint them as terminations rather than settlements which puts the two women in darker light – but they can't respond to that insinuation?

    November 2, 2011 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  25. Ann

    People that have worked in corporate should know that any of the parties involved are not allowed to speak if the matter was resolved. That is to protect everyone involved and it is the law. Think it is a low for media to stoop like this when people in this country are barely making it and need jobs.

    November 2, 2011 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
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