Herman Cain’s Sexual Harassment Accuser Says He’s Lying
ABC News’ Kevin Dolak and Huma Khan report:
One of the women whom Herman Cain allegedly sexually harassed believes that the GOP front-runner is not telling the truth about what happened between them 12 years ago, according to the woman’s attorney.
Speaking on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360? Tuesday night, attorney Joel P. Bennet said that his client is still mulling a decision on how to handle the resurfacing of the harassment allegations but will be bringing him the signed confidentiality agreement between her and the National Restaurant Association, where she and Cain worked at the time.
Bennet also said that his client’s case was ended with a sexual harassment settlement, not a termination agreement with severance, and said that his client believes Cain’s recent statement that he has never been accused of sexual harassment is untrue.
“Because there were two women that filed complaints at this time — and it’s unclear which one he is speaking about all the time — but to the extent he’s made statements that he never sexually harassed anyone, and there was no validity to these complaints, that’s certainly not true with respect to my client’s complaints,” Bennet said.
Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, was accused of inappropriate conduct by two female employees when he was head of the National Restaurant Association from 1996 to 1999, as first reported by Politico. The association made a settlement with the women that included a financial payout and a confidentiality agreement.
Bennet and his client have yet to contact the National Restaurant Association to see if it will waive the confidentiality agreement from 12 years ago when the case was settled. Although she would like to address the situation, until they waive the agreement she will be keeping quiet.
“Naturally, 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,” Bennet said on “AC360.” “That’s certainly not true, and she’s still deciding once we hear from the Restaurant Association what she’ll do, if they’ll waive the confidentiality. Until they do that, she’s not going to speak out.”
Cain defended his seemingly contradictory statements on Tuesday, saying he had difficulty recalling details connected to the more than decade-old allegations against him, and that the story is a “smear campaign” created by his opponents.
“When I was initially hit with this … I didn’t recall it right away,” Cain told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham this morning, adding that he was “not changing the story but trying to fill as many details as I could possibly recall.”
Cain went on the defensive when Bennet told the Washington Post that his client would be comfortable talking about the case if it weren’t for the confidentiality clause she’d agreed to as part of her settlement.
When asked by Fox News’ Bret Baier Tuesday evening if the accuser should be relieved of her confidentiality clause, Cain would only say that doing so could have legal implications and the decision was up to the National Restaurant Association.
Cain said Tuesday that the settlement equated to about three to six months of severance pay, but the accusation didn’t come up until the woman had left the National Restaurant Association.
Bennet said on Tuesday, “If there hadn’t been [sexual harassment] claims, there wouldn’t have been a settlement,” and on “AC360? said that when he represented his client 12 years ago there were no performance-related issues that arose that led to his client leaving her job at the National Restaurant Association.
“She was ready to move on to another position in light of the way she had been treated by Mr. Cain — with the confidentiality settlement agreement,” Bennet said.
Cain has vehemently denied the allegations since they surfaced over the weekend, saying he was falsely accused, but on Tuesday said that he recalled only one such incident, not two. The woman, according to Cain, took offense when he told her that she was as tall as his wife, and put his hand on his chin to indicate the difference.
“I was not touching her when I did that,” the former businessman said. “This was the only time, being around a lady, felt that was sexual harassment, and it was shown that it had no basis. It was resolved.”
But even as he attempts to defend himself, Cain’s apparently contradictory statements have made the situation even murkier.
Monday he said couldn’t recall whether he met one of the women in a hotel room while at a conference, but he never directly said no when asked the question.
“That I absolutely do not recall. You know, I have no recollection of that,” Cain said in an interview with Judy Woodruff on PBS’s NewsHour.
Today, he added that he never extended such an invitation.
Cain denied Monday that he was aware of a settlement between the two accusers and the National Restaurant Association, but his story changed as the day evolved.
“If the Restaurant Association did a settlement, I wasn’t aware of it, and I hope it wasn’t much because nothing happened,” Cain said in a Fox News interview, and repeated the same line at the National Press Club later that afternoon.
But in the interview later in the evening with PBS, the Tea Party star said he was, in fact, aware of a deal.
“I was aware that an agreement was reached. The word ‘settlement’ versus the word ‘agreement,’ you know, 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 told PBS’ Woodruff.
Cain blamed the discrepancy on the wording and the difference between a “settlement” and “agreement.”
“When I first heard the term settlement I thought [about] the legal term,” Cain said on Fox News today. “My recollection was it was an agreement… I didn’t think there was a legal settlement but an agreement.”
The former businessman has described the story, first reported by Politico, as a distraction and a “witch hunt” created by his competitors. He also accused the left of attacking him because of his race.
“I didn’t change my story. I simply got the wording right,” he told HLN’s Robin Meade today.
ABC News’ Michael Falcone contributed to this report.