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. AFartSmeller

    Sounds like politico unearthed some liberals who were willing to say anything to try to smear a conservative

    October 31, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  2. Nash

    This story confirms that Cain is not Presidential at all.

    October 31, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  3. Bambam

    Surprise, surprise. NOT!

    October 31, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  4. Steveo

    I wasn't there so I don't know one way or the other but I find it really odd that after 21 years.... Sounds like Anita Hill part 2!

    October 31, 2011 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  5. Bertina

    Conservatives always believe that once you pay someone off that should be the end of it.

    October 31, 2011 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  6. idb

    Pathetic press work. Look at the mans strenghts and weaknesses and cover what he stands for. That is what the people want to know.

    October 31, 2011 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    So far Camp Cain is making all of the wrong moves on this issue. They are trying to spin the question out of the spotlight, which makes look as if there is something to hide. I fully expect Camp Cain to be consistent with itself and come out and say, "It was all just joke. Etc."

    October 31, 2011 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  8. matt

    I love how it's fair and relevant to question Obama's birth, religion, racial views, experience, nationality, associates, grades, and family dynamics, but to ask Mr. Cain about something from his past, that legal papers support, is "high-tech lynching." You have to love the hypocrisy of conservatives.

    October 31, 2011 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  9. The Greedy Old Psychopaths have lost their minds!

    "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."

    That's a rather telling comment, since it implies Mr. KochCain didn't want to accidentally refer to a different set of women he harassed. And answering a question with another question is a sure sign of evasion,

    October 31, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  10. Opsguy52

    Cain is right. Any major figure, corporate or political, is likely to have been accused of harassment at one time or another. We elected Bill Clinton twice knowing he hardly ever wasted time zipping his pants. This is just typical smear tactics that, unfortunately, have become central to American politics.

    October 31, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |

    Cain is acting like a buffoon,.. can't be taken seriously,.. everything is a joke with him, and has been forced to backtrack on many things he's said,.. well let me tell you Mr. Cain,.. you're a multi millionaire,.. you can afford to laugh your way through these tough times,.. but to the ordinary citizen,.. unemployment is no joke,.. neither is smoking and dying from cancer.

    October 31, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  12. Mathman025

    I'm kind of hoping that these accusations continue to pile up, and, sad to say, if these accusers are white, this may hurt him even more on a racial level.

    October 31, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  13. Anders Perillo

    And the character assassination of conservative candidates begins in earnest...

    October 31, 2011 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  14. yuri

    Now comes the raft of "9-9-9" times of refusals. To be fair, this needs to be investigated further w/o any protracted pre-judgements. It, then, becomes imperative, if, indeed, Mr. Cain has what it takes to lead the free world. Time will tell us.

    October 31, 2011 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  15. proudmemberofglobalzero

    What I cannot believe is that we as a nation are such uninformed voters that anyone could elect someone from the GOP as President. Enough said

    October 31, 2011 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  16. CM

    You mean a min wage waitress got hit on by a boss in a restaurant she worked at? Stop the press!

    October 31, 2011 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  17. Dee

    Wonder if he'll make a "joke" about this allegation?

    October 31, 2011 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  18. Jay

    and here is the republican Anthony Wiener

    October 31, 2011 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  19. Laverne

    Well Mr. Cain welcome to Washington, you are now officially a politician!

    October 31, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  20. Kat

    This won't hurt his chances at the presidency because he never had a chance to begin with.

    October 31, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  21. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    Its not his behavior I object to, its the man himself. His tax plan further enriches the rich and impoverishes the poor. He is a shallow man who possesses an ego of mythical proportions. He has absolutely no idea what good governance is all about. Our presidency has survived extremely bad presidents in the past, but I think a Cain presidency would be so disruptive and acrimonious that the Republic would begin to dissolve.

    I give all Republicans (I prefer the term Repugnican'ts) short shrift, but I consider the Cain supporters nothing more than a bunch of morons, bereft of any intelligence and fit only for consuming oxygen.

    October 31, 2011 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  22. kd

    I'm not going to put much stock in these allegations. But what I WILL disagree with is the statement out of the Caine campaign that ' Washington establishment critics haven't had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain's ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs.' Are you kidding me?!? They've blasted those idiotic ideas, and rightly so. Caine would be a disaster.

    Republicans – get somebody with some ideas that actually are based in reality and would work.

    October 31, 2011 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  23. glyder

    pretend like he is obama and the story vanishes.

    October 31, 2011 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  24. Amazing

    I don't know if the story has any merit and i don't like Cain. However, this is what happens in the big leagues. I also find it ironic that Cain wants the names of the sources yet republicans like Cain and Coulter do not reveal their sources when they hurl crap at the President and anyone who has a different viewpoint. The really unforunate side to this story is that it will will detract attention from the real issues that need to address.

    October 31, 2011 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  25. Straight Shooter

    And Ms. Coulter, it is no different than conservaitves treat all Democrats, especially President Obama. It is fine for them to go after everysingle word the Pres. utters, call him names, suggest violence or worse, but bring up a possible fact about any conservaitve and they get really riled up. How is this any different than when Newt and the gang went after Clinton for things that happened before he was in office? Oh, that's right, this is a conservative, so the rules are different...

    October 31, 2011 09:29 am at 9:29 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