Nov. 3, 2011 — -- One of the women who GOP frontrunner Herman Cain said made a false accusation of sexual harassment against him has decided not to go public.
Lawyer Joel Bennett said the Maryland woman, who now works for the federal government, has decided not to make a public statement to challenge Cain's version of what happened when they worked together at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Politico reported Thursday that the woman received a $45,000 payment from the trade group as part of a settlement that also included a promise of confidentiality.
On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the other accuser had accepted a settlement from the NRA that was worth a full year's pay, $35,000.
Said employment lawyer David Scher, "When you pay someone a year of salary to resolve a case, that means the company probably thought there was some merit to it."
Cain Accuser: I Don't Want to Be Anita Hill
Joel Bennett said that while the Maryland woman wants to restore her reputation, she does not want to become another Anita Hill and let the controversy take over her life. Hill's accusations of inappropriate sexual statements by now Supreme Court Clarence Thomas surfaced in 1991 as Congress was preparing to confirm his nomination to the Supreme Court.
Bennett has said, however, that he wants to make a statement on behalf of the woman that will contest Cain's version of events, and that he will ask the National Restaurant Association for permission. The woman had received a financial payout from the trade group in return for confidentiality.
"I will be emailing the attorney for the National Restaurant Association a draft public statement for their review," Bennett told ABC News. "I will have no further statements until I hear back from the National Restaurant Association."
The National Restaurant Association said Thursday afternoon that Bennett had provided a statement. "Our outside counsel was contacted by Mr. Bennett today and was asked to provide a response to a proposed statement by tomorrow afternoon," said Sue Hensley, the NRA's senior vp for public affairs communications. "We are currently reviewing the document, and we plan to respond tomorrow."
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that a third woman considered filing a workplace complaint against Cain at the NRA over what was termed aggressive and unwanted behavior, with invitations to his corporate apartment.
The woman told the AP she didn't file a complaint because she began having less contact with him, and because she learned that a co-worker, one of the two accusers who received a settlement, had already done so. Cain's actions "were inappropriate, and it made me feel uncomfortable," she told the AP. She said that in addition to an invitation to his corporate apartment in Washington, he had confided to colleagues how attractive he found her. She also disputed Cain's assertion that there were misunderstandings about his behavior because of his "sense of humor."
The AP said that the woman is not politically active or currently a registered member of either party, but she had been a registered Democrat at one point.
Cain has already denounced the two previous allegations of sexual harassment against him as false, and suggested at least one of the women was a poor worker whose job performance was "not up to par." But an ABC News investigation found that both of the women who received settlements from the NRA are highly respected professionals who have gone on to successful careers in and around government.
The woman in Maryland represented by Bennett has worked for years as a public spokesperson for various agencies of the federal government.
Her case appears to be the one Cain has described in his round of interviews, saying she was a writer working in the trade group's communications department.
Cain has said that all he could recall was making an innocuous gesture to this woman while she was in his office with the door open and his secretary just outside. "I referenced this lady's height and I was standing near her, and I did this saying, you're the same height of my wife, because my wife is five feet tall and she comes up to my chin," Cain explained. "This lady's five feet tall and she came up to my chin. So obviously she thought that that was too close for comfort. It showed up in the actual allegation."
Joel Bennett later called CNN to dispute Cain's version of events. "To the extent he's made statements that he never sexually harassed anyone," said Bennett, "and there was no validity to these complaints, that's certainly not true with respect to my client's complaints."
Accuser Works as Registered Lobbyist in New Jersey
The other woman who complained about Cain is described by former colleagues as now working as a registered lobbyist in New Jersey.
Cain says he recalls going out for drinks with her and other employees of the Restaurant Association after work."She was in some of those group activities where we went out together, but it was never, she and I alone or anything like that," said Cain.
But the incident that prompted the woman's complaint, which took place at a restaurant in Crystal City, Virginia, according to a former pollster for the NRA, was much more serious.
Oklahoma political consultant Chris Wilson talked about it on KTOK radio Wednesday.
"She was a very lower level staffer I think she was maybe two years out of college and this all occurred at a restaurant in Crystal City and everybody was very aware of it," said Wilson. " I don't want to be drawn into it specifically, but if she comes out and talks about it, it's like I said, it'll probably be the end of his campaign." Wilson currently works for a Rick Perry political action committee.
Cain's recollection of the reported financial settlements has changed through the week. At first he said he was unaware of any settlement, then said an accuser had been paid three months salary, then upped that to three to six months salary.
Cain campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon Wednesday dismissed reports of a third accuser as part of an attempt to smear the candidate.
"Mr. Cain has said over the past two days at public events that we could see other baseless allegations made against him as this appalling smear campaign continues," said Gordon. "Since his critics have not been successful in attacking his ideas, they are resorting to bitter personal attacks. Mr. Cain deserves better."
The new tack also involved trying to shift attention to who might have leaked the story to the media, with accusations from Cain and his chief of staff that the story was planted by the campaign of Texas governor Rick Perry.
The candidate told a Tea Party town hall meeting, via phone, that the Perry campaign was behind the original Politico story about the harassment charges. "We now know, and have been able to trace [the story] back to the Perry campaign that stirred this up, in order to discredit me and slow us down," said Cain. "The fingerprints are all over the Rick Perry campaign, based upon our sources."
In an interview with Forbes, Cain said that he had told GOP consultant Curt Anderson, who worked on his 2004 U.S. Senate bid, about a settlement of harassment charges from his time at NRA. Anderson now works for the Rick Perry campaign.
Mark Block, Cain's chief of staff, said, "I think the Perry campaign owes Herman Cain and America an apology."
Ricky Perry issued a blanket denial. "There's not anybody in my campaign that knew anything about this," said the Texas governor. Perry's campaign issued a statement saying that no one in the campaign was involved in spreading the sexual harassment story "in any way," and that the campaign first learned of the charges from the original Politico story. Ray Sullivan, Perry's communications director, called Block's charge "reckless and false."
Anderson also denied leaking the harassment story to Politico, and said he learned of the settlement by reading about it in Politico. In an interview with CNN, he said that he didn't recall any conversation with Cain about sexual harassment accusations while working for Cain, but stopped short of saying Cain was lying, instead suggesting that Cain was coming "unraveled" in a "firestorm." In a statement released Wednesday, he said he had "great respect for Herman and his character and I would never speak ill of him."