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. Philojazz

    "It's outrageous the way liberals treat a black conservative," columnist Ann Coulter said on Fox News. "This is another high-tech lynching." Ann Coulter? I had forgotten she was still around.

    October 31, 2011 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  2. Jason

    Of course Mr Type A, is now using his own brand of victim-speak, to describe his circumstance. That in itself has enough w i m p factor in it, to keep me from voting for him. Big man acting as he's the victim.Whats that about standing on your own feet, Herman?

    October 31, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  3. Ed

    I promise all of you that if you work as a manager for a large commpany and do your job properly you will at some point in your career be accused of sexual misconduct. As soon as you discipline female employees, a small percentage of them will file a false report to fire back at the boss. It has happened to me. Until someone is convicted and or proven to have done these rthings, that person is innocent

    October 31, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Bill Clinton

    It's hard for me to get too worked up about this. I'd never vote for him due to his 9-9-9 joke of a tax plan.

    October 31, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  5. TIGER2

    Ann Coulter coming to the defense of a "Black" man? With friends like her, who needs enemies?

    October 31, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  6. sid

    Wow Mr. Cain, is this true?? Bad Hermie!

    October 31, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  7. Tex71

    Funny how these guys always keep believing that sxual misconduct will never come back to bite them.

    October 31, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  8. Big John

    I'm sure he did it, just about all of the big boys in the political arena play those games. Some get caught, some don't. I had already decided he is not worthy of the office, so all this article does is reinforce my already low opinion of the man. Oh, and I love how they're whining about liberals attacking him, saying it's because he's black. One of these days, the race card is finally gonna get taken out of the deck, and then a person will have to stand responsible for their actions, and not be able to run and hide behind Aunt Jamima's skirts to avoid getting spanked.

    October 31, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  9. jc

    Jeez, how come Ann Hypocrite Coulter has never called all of the rightwing lies said about President Obama a "high-tech lynching"?

    October 31, 2011 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  10. Patricksday

    Well he is a Republican "Preacher" of course he has a Dark past, anyone who points fingers at Gays still has a thumb pointed at them self. And we knew that the GOP would do something to derail his express train, there is NO WAY a Republican could ever follow orders from a Black Man, or a Woman of any color. What does Rush Limbaugh say? Rush is Right, is what the Ditto Heads chant.

    October 31, 2011 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  11. Georgia Tee

    Herman Cain, can you just say yes or no to the question , then we can move on....Let's not forget, you like to keep it simple...

    October 31, 2011 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  12. Scott

    Ann Coulter playing the race card?!? What planet did I wake up on this morning?

    October 31, 2011 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  13. Reed

    Ok, let me get this straight. Two unnamed women say Cain “said” something of a sexual nature to them. Hmm. I know a guy that had "sex" with an young intern in his office! Oh yes, he was already the President. Proponents said that doesn't matter, it was just a personal issue!

    Let's keep things in perspective. Both liberals and sadly the Republican establishment want to discredit Cain. I don’t see the story hear!!!

    October 31, 2011 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  14. steve

    If this is true then why wasn't it brought up when Herman Cain first began his run for the Republican nomination? Does anyone remember Paula Jones or Monica Lewinsky? Bill Clinton should.

    October 31, 2011 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  15. Milton Platt

    Would any of the rest of us pass this test?
    The sexual harrassment thing can get blown all out of proportion and that is a shame.

    October 31, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  16. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    While I am no Herman Cain fan (and am not likely to become one), it always amazes me that someone will find someone else who will shout inappropriate sexual behavior. Ever since Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, this has gotten idiotic.

    Oh, and as a reminder. If Anita Hill was so offended by Thomas' actions, why was it that within 6 months of him taking any position with the Federal Government, Ms. Hill took a job in not only the same agency, but working for whatever office Justice Thomas was in charge of?

    October 31, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  17. Alyssa

    Good lord Ann Coulter. Please go away.

    October 31, 2011 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  18. Liz the First

    If this is true, i wouldn't be surprised. after seeing that creepy sidelong grin at the end of his smoking commercial, his 'ick factor' went off the charts.

    October 31, 2011 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  19. Sogooden

    "It's outrageous the way liberals treat a black conservative," columnist Ann Coulter said on Fox News. "This is another high-tech lynching." What does this have to do with him being black!!!! This is not the time for the race card. Let me be clear, I am an african-american female from Georgia, just so you know. The fact is, if he didn't do it why were these women paid to keep quiet? That's the important point.

    October 31, 2011 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  20. rosemary

    Didn't work on Clarence Thomas, but let's try it on Herman Cain, anyway.

    October 31, 2011 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  21. jorge washinsen

    I never knew the Democrats to be worried about their Presidents' sexual escapades Why worry about the Republican candidate,is he becoming such a threat?

    October 31, 2011 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  22. Retired Army in San Antonio

    All that must've happened before he became a 'Man of God' 😉 .....

    October 31, 2011 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  23. Lee

    Before people like Ann Coulter start blaming the Liberal Press for this attack against Cain, they should really research where, why, and how this story came to light. It would not surprise me in the least if Romney or Perry's fingerprints are found in the Politico's editors office.
    Either way, I guess we can expect this sort of thing. If this is the best dirt they can dig up on Cain, he is probably the cleanest one of the pack.

    October 31, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  24. ED FL

    Cain should get a medal. A GOP male politician actually may have tried to make a pass at [OH MY GOSH] a female. That in itself is an improvement. Maybe it could start a trend.

    October 31, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  25. ConservaFASCISTS/TeaHadists/Tea Queda/TeaLiban

    I always thought the guy looked like a pervert. Sort of reminds me of Clarence Thomas.

    October 31, 2011 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
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