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. Big Jilm

    If nothing "bad" happened, Mr. Cain, then why would these two women need paid off? Been hanging with O'Reilly lately? You should at least follow Rush's footsteps and take your viagra and bad intentions to a third world country where you can get away with it like all the other GOP.

    October 31, 2011 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  2. Kevin McGonigal

    Well, Republicans might have a problem with unsubstantiated accusations of improper behavior, but as I recall, Democrats and the liberal media had few problems with a sitting president committing proven improper acts and then lying about them under oath. I guess they will withhold any criticism of possible improper behavior based on dubious sources and internet innuendo.

    October 31, 2011 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  3. abby1

    If it was not true, why did he not address the question appropriately?

    October 31, 2011 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  4. lgny

    I'm no fan of Cain, but the press needs more substance to make the accusation stick. Otherwise, this will look like just a political dirty trick.

    Names, dates, places, transcripts may be needed to move this past one political paper running claims that are too vague to allow any other paper to confirm the accusation.

    This does not change my vote (I was not going to vote for him anyway).

    October 31, 2011 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  5. dreucalypt

    I'd just as soon the campaigns not go to this place.

    October 31, 2011 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  6. I_Luv_America

    Only when u try to avoid it gets suspicious. Eventually it's is going 2 come out, either way. Let's see how faux news spins this. I'm sure they'll turn it around saying it is Dems fault of bringing this non-story, while faux had front page stories on Al Gore's non-story.

    October 31, 2011 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  7. Obama 2012

    I don't care much for Herman Cain but i gotta agree... Digging up stuff from 21 years ago. Claims for that matter that are only alleged, seems like the "Media" is just trying to find dirt.

    October 31, 2011 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  8. Dave - Phx

    Haha a rich dirty old man, who woulda though!

    October 31, 2011 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  9. don

    Cain is in good company. Clarence Thomas had to go through the left's attacks. We all know that these are trumpted up charges. And the fact is, heads of organizations constantly have to fight the barrage of false accusations and sometimes Insurance companies pay off these leaches to save money on the cost of defense. It's too bad, I hope these women if they exist loose their payoff.

    October 31, 2011 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  10. Tim from Toledo

    I saw the "lead reporter" for this story on the news this morning. She won't say who her sources are, she won't specifically say what Cain allegedly did, she impied that there was some sort of settlement or resolution to the issue – but won't say what it was....of course she did say that the story was "very appropriately and accurately reported".

    This is the kind of crappy new story that should get people fired. Smoke and mirrors and anonymous sources can be used to report anything you want. Unfortunately – because of this irresponsible type of reporting – there will be people out there that think Cain is a deviant, which is exactly what the people that reported it want.

    There is something terribly wrong with the way our media works.....

    October 31, 2011 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  11. richard

    Business people who have made a career of taking from people have no business in politics where the job is to provide for people.

    October 31, 2011 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  12. Joshua Ludd

    The more this man is in the public eye, the more he proves himself unqualified to be President. You can be a bully and a jerk and become President and even be a good one... but you have to actually know your stuff, and Cain does not know much about anything besides making money by selling junk food and employing people in positions that have near poverty level wages.

    October 31, 2011 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  13. Portland tony

    Mr. Cain,
    "Every move you make
    Every bond you break
    Every step you take
    I'll be watching you "
    (Lyrics Police .....)
    American politicians stand no chance.

    October 31, 2011 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  14. peter

    He did it!

    October 31, 2011 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  15. ss26mar

    ah yes guilt by accusation
    someone makes an accusation and therefore it must be true
    proof is not important especially if it happened decades ago

    October 31, 2011 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  16. db

    I find it very interesting that the Washington runners are slinging mud already. I guess it is SOP for the other idiots to stoop so low that they need to research the total history of a man to look for something to sling at him. Maybe they should try and excell by accomplishments rather than accept where they are and try to lower other people. Just for this reason alone, I will not vote for them and vote for Cain. If a woman has a problem about Cain and will not come forward then it is a wash, does not exist, and sure does not conform to the letter of the law, being able to face your accusers. Pathetic shenanigans by the competition when getting their arces handed to them.

    October 31, 2011 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  17. Joshua Ludd

    Cain thinks he has found a sure-fire solution to questions he can't answer... turn them back on the reporters asking them. "When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I'm going to say you know, I don't know. Do you know?" or "Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment". Sure, it will sell to the rubes who don't really care if he is qualified as long as he is their particular brand of charismatic, but Cain runs into a simple problem with this tactic. He is running for president... those reporters are not.

    October 31, 2011 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  18. Yippee501

    secret allegations, anonymous sources, concealed identities – this is weak, even for Politico.

    October 31, 2011 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  19. db

    First of all, is there something wrong with sex? Second, did it take place between two consenting adults? Third, if the woman did not want to participate was she forced? Were they compensated for their accusations. Where is the proof that something actually happened? Sounds very hokey to me, trumped up charges that are absolutely meaningless. Who out there does not have a skelton in their closet they are not proud of that they wish would just stay there and get along with their lives?

    October 31, 2011 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  20. Common Sense

    Gotta love the knee-jerk reaction of blaming it on the "liberal media"

    Just answer the question, dude.

    October 31, 2011 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  21. Rich

    The tea party won't like this Herm....but keep playin da fool...

    October 31, 2011 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  22. Get a job Hippies

    Wow what a suprise they are going to use the old Justice Thomas method on Herman. If you can't come up with any real critcism of a candidate or their plans then just sink to the lowest common denominator. Great work CNN.

    October 31, 2011 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  23. GoFaster58

    Here come the roaches out of the woodwork. Time for some the Raid. I'm glad the Cain campaign responded right away instead of waiting like so many do.

    October 31, 2011 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  24. Steve

    Ok, you want a response to your ideas?

    9-9-9 is a joke. It will unfairly shift the tax burden further down from the rich.

    Anyone running for office should be held to the standard of "how will the policy affect them?" and if it benefits them, shouldn't be on the table.

    October 31, 2011 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  25. SearchingForAnAtheistExtremist

    Why is the name, 'Clarence Thomas' suddenly coming to mind??

    October 31, 2011 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57