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. Bob

    If you go after Cain then your a racist.... Heard that before, didn't we?

    October 31, 2011 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  2. James

    Really, over 10 years ago, news? and there was only the alligation that the women didn't like what was said. Is this really news?

    October 31, 2011 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  3. 46th Pres

    Having overseen personnel in my lifetime I can tell you from experience that there are some sexual harassment charges that are justified, and there are others that are as false as an Obama birth certificate. Before passing judgement or for that matter writing a story on it, wait for the facts.

    October 31, 2011 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  4. Breeze

    If this is true, he's done. Only Clinton could lie his way out of this one.

    October 31, 2011 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  5. GI Joe

    I've finally figured out what the right-wingers mean when they accuse people/media of being "liberal"


    No wonder it scares them.

    October 31, 2011 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  6. Kewpie

    And the wall came tumbling down.

    October 31, 2011 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  7. Kenneth the VI of Minneapolis

    Build them up, then tear them down.

    October 31, 2011 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  8. russinmaine

    This same tactic was tried with Clarence Thomas. How ironic that when it is TRUE like in the case of Bill Clinton, the media and the Democrats sweep it under the rug." These tactics are just Old. Tired. Predictable. Despicable. Amazing what one can get away with in the name of journalism from "unamed sources!"

    October 31, 2011 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  9. russinmaine

    The very same tactic was used against Clarence Thomas, is the unamed source a person by the name Anita Hill per chance? When you cannot find anything negative on a candidate, I guess the next step is to fabricate it!

    October 31, 2011 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  10. Clwyd

    should we be surprised? He's a republican! Lies, wars, loopholes for the rich, protecting the rich, doing the riches bidding it goes on and on!

    October 31, 2011 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  11. JimNasium

    Toast anyone?

    October 31, 2011 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  12. john

    And this was while he was just a Pizza guy? Imagine what would happen behind a wall of Secret Service protection!

    October 31, 2011 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  13. Buster Bloodvessel

    Wait, you actually quoted Ann Coulter? Why? As an expert on idiotic bomb-dropping? Cain just wanted to show those women his Nine Ninety-nine Special.

    October 31, 2011 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  14. ath

    And you have to bring up the name Ann Coulter, a name that in itself is vile and repulsive. To think anyone would even listen to Coulter is beyond me. She actually delights in that she is a hated person. That is the only source of her income. That is the only venue (Fox) she has left to spew forth her venom

    October 31, 2011 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  15. nolapearl

    He doesn't respond to the allegations- just blames the media. Coulter is laughable.

    October 31, 2011 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  16. Wildone

    Maybe he was "just being friendly" like Ahh-nold and Justice Thomas. Ya think?

    October 31, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  17. cajuntide

    With all this political mud slinging going on you would think D.C. would be unnavagtable by now.

    October 31, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  18. ATL Guy

    I guess he wanted to show these women what he wanted to do with his 9-9-9 plan.

    October 31, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  19. daddy sez

    hey angry anne, it ain't a lynching when you put the noose around your own neck. it's called political suicide.

    btw, politico ain't exactly liberal. try again.

    October 31, 2011 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  20. Jay

    Welcome to the bigtime Mr. Cain.

    October 31, 2011 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  21. Who gives a sh1t

    this is america after all

    October 31, 2011 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  22. The Real Tom Paine

    For those conservatives who have screamed that the President was never properly " vetted " ( mainly because he was elected), this is what the process looks like. Cain chose to deflect the question back at the reporter rather than answer it, which immediately raises questions about how he deals with accusations of lying and/or spin. This is entirely different from being a radio talk show host, where all you have to deal with are sycophants and followers telling you how wonderful and brilliant you are. If the NRA had not paid out severance packages to these 2 women, the matter would be moot. The payouts suggest something they wanted to keep quiet, and Cain needs to scrape the rust off of his memory and come up with an explanation that sounds credible and does not make him out to be a victim. I'm not holding my breath on the victim part, since whining and complaining when challenged are part and parcel of being a conservative thse days. Grow a spine, Herman, and fess up.

    October 31, 2011 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  23. Jeff in TX

    I am no fan of Cain. I find him intriguing but under qualified and likely unelectable. Still, it would be very interesting to find the source of this of his Presidential opponents, no doubt.

    October 31, 2011 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  24. John in Colorado

    One can only imagine what the temptations are, for all kinds of moral wrong doing, once a person is in the Office of President. The most fundamental relationship a person has is the one with their spouse. If your spouse can't trust you, why should we? I have to assume that the Restaurant Association would not have paid off these two women six-figure sums had the allegation against Cain not been credible. This was hush money designed to keep this all quiet. Now we need to know what were the circumstances that caused the Board of GodFather's Pizza to demand Cain's resignation. Were they dealing with similar problems with Cain there? If so, do we have a pattern of behavior here? If we do, he must quit the race for President. President Obama is looking better to me all the time. I have never heard even a hint of personal moral failure on his part. On the contrary, his Republican Secretary of Defense has spoken highly of the President's moral courage in going after terrorists and indeed bringing them to justice. When I think of the crisis we were in when he assumed office and how he has brought calm and a steady hand to the economy that is growing although slowly, I'm not sure I'm ready to change horses in the middle of the stream. No one in the Republican field inspires me to do anything but laugh at times uncontrollably. Romney's bonafides as a businessperson are very suspect to me. Plus, I have no idea what the man's core principles are. I suspect he doesn't have any other than his own political advancement.

    October 31, 2011 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  25. Roger

    He vaguely remembers these incidents. You do not forget incidents such as these if they are true. I am sure more will surface now that the cat is out of the bag. So to speak!

    October 31, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
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