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. JC

    And this is why we have non-disclosure agreements. So that those who agree to them can just violate them if they don't like what is being said. What is the point of having any legal system at all? Rules? Who needs them....let's just let anarchy rule. Morality, integrity, character....all gone. If you were willing to take the money and sign an NDA, then live with it. Oh wait some reality show might make you famous......for 10 minutes.

    November 2, 2011 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  2. Lou

    Isn't it strange how these accusers come out of the woodwork at the most inconvenient times, like when a candiate is running for office? Where were they years ago, and why didn't they come forward then? Did his political opponents lower themselves to do some dirt digging and just happened to find them waiting on the sidelines, or was it because the offended women decided now was the time to throw mud in his face? Either way, it looks like Mr. Cain shot himself in the foot, and it's obvious that women voters will definitely show their disdain.

    November 2, 2011 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  3. YASR5

    Don't stick up for Cain. He is bad news. You can never get a clear answer from him. He is not the brilliant businessman he is made out to be. It doesn't take a genius to run a pizza shop. Most people have never even heard of his pizza brand. I'm sorry to say it but if you admire him I suspect you are of low intelligence.

    November 2, 2011 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  4. George1234

    This scandal was not initiated by a 'liberal' source -it was initiated by opponents of Cain within the Republican Party. The reporter who broke this story confirmed as much.

    November 2, 2011 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  5. Salad Spinner

    Where there's smoke, there's fire. He's toast, burnt toast.

    November 2, 2011 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  6. jeff

    I would not vote for him anyway, but I don't care if he did a goat!

    November 2, 2011 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  7. Andrea

    Why wait all these years to bring this up? Are these women looking for some financial payout?

    November 2, 2011 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  8. John

    There's one unswerving fact that resounds through the halls of the legal industry; If there's an agreement for settlement, then no doubt whatsoever exists of evidence the events were true.

    Cain is a liar.

    November 2, 2011 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  9. GeorgeBos95

    If she's under a confidentiality agreement, then both she and her attorney have violated it by talking from the shadows.

    November 2, 2011 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  10. Another GOP Candidate Flopping Around

    How wispy-washy and mealy-mouthed can the Republican Candidates get???

    The epitome of moral hypocrisy! How can you believe anything they say?

    November 2, 2011 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  11. AmusedNot Confused

    This is so laughable that any liberal would say Cain is done just becuase of allegations. Maybe he should have waited to get into the Oval (Oral) office and then sexually harass someone like Clinton did Lewinsky. Just so I am sraight on this..... it's only OK when you are actually PRESIDENT, not 15 years before you are PRESIDENT. OK... I got it. Thanks!!!

    November 2, 2011 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  12. Ted

    The human mind works in funny ways, some things you forget easily, others tend to stay with you, sexual encounters and innuendo stay with you.
    I'd like to think Cain is innocent, but I would like to hear the other side's story also, we are about to pick a candidate for President of the United States, it's not like we are ordering a pizza here.
    If the NRA does not allow this woman to speak, Cain will be considered damaged goods.

    November 2, 2011 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  13. Nick San Diegon

    He's digging himself a hole. It was easier to fess up and it would have gone away. Now he;s toast.

    November 2, 2011 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  14. Matt

    Part of the problem with this matter is the gender war it starts. Every guy who has been falsely accused of harassment (most of my friends and I have) will be sympathetic to Cain. We know as well as anybody how much intuition, gut feelings, vibes and other subjective crap lead to a conclusion of "fact" with most women. If you say "good morning" the "wrong way," a woman might accuse.

    So even if these women come forward with their stories it will likely not leave us with the truth of what happened. And here's the ultimate truth of the election: An unsubstantiated charge of sexual harassment from over a decade ago (why did these women wait until he was leading in the polls?) and lack of GOVERNING experience is not enough to negate Mitt Romney's flip-flopping or Barack Obama's record, questionable alliances, socialistic views and total ineptitude in foreign affairs.

    Cain's critics can call him a "liar" all they want, and dwell on his lack of experience in government (that's a plus with me). and question the intelligence and supposed hypocrisy of his supporters all they want. Herman Cain still betters his opponents on all counts. If actual evidence comes forth that convinces me that he's as sleazy and crooked as Clinton was, then I'll switch my vote to third party rather than support Romney or Obama.

    November 2, 2011 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  15. Beaver Cleaver

    I wonder who is paying her to come forward.

    November 2, 2011 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
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