A woman who accused Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment complained about a “series of inappropriate behaviors” and “unwanted advances,” her lawyer said yesterday.
Joel Bennett, in a statement to reporters, said his client stands by the “good-faith” complaint she made against Cain when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s.
Cain, 65, has called the allegations “baseless,” and has sought to move forward with his campaign after spending the last week defending himself from the allegations.
“We look forward to focusing our attention on the real issues impacting this country -- like fixing this broken economy,” said Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon in a statement yesterday.
Two women who had worked at the restaurant association accused Cain, who was CEO of the organization at the time, of sexual harassment and were paid settlements for their claims.
Both women signed confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from discussing the details of the incidents. In a statement released yesterday, the restaurant association said Cain had disputed the allegations at the time they were made.
Former employees say the organization paid one female staffer a year’s salary -- $35,000 -- in severance after she complained about Cain’s behavior. The second woman, now a spokeswoman for a federal agency in Washington, received $45,000, according to a Nov. 3 report by Politico.
Bennett told reporters that the woman he represents doesn’t want to divulge the amount of her settlement, her identity or the specifics of her complaint, including the settlement she received from the trade organization.
“She and her husband see no value in revisiting this matter now, nor in discussing the matter any further publicly or privately,” he told reporters. “In fact it would be extremely painful to do so.”
Cain’s personal life drew scrutiny as he became one of the leading candidates among Republicans seeking the 2012 presidential nomination, less than two months before the Iowa caucuses start the nomination process on Jan. 3.
Tied in Poll
He was in a virtual tie with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in a national survey of Republicans conducted this week. Romney was backed by 24 percent of Republicans in the Washington Post-ABC News poll, compared with 23 percent for Cain. The poll, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, was taken Oct. 31 through Nov. 3, after Politico reported the allegations of the two women who worked at the restaurant association when Cain was chief executive.
Cain and Romney yesterday each addressed a Washington conference of Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group co-founded and financed by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who control Koch Industries and have financed ads to help elect Republicans.
The New York Times reported that Cain campaign manager Mark Block led the advocacy group’s chapter in Wisconsin and Cain was hired in 2005 to lead its “Prosperity Expansion Project.” Cain told his audience yesterday the newspaper made it sound as if he and the Koch brothers go fishing together.
‘Koch Brothers’ Brother’
“I’m very proud to know the Koch brothers,” Cain said. “I am the Koch brothers’ brother from another mother. I’m their brother from another mother, and proud of it.”
Cain has continued to blame Texas Governor Rick Perry’s campaign for reviving the sexual harassment allegations, even after one of Cain’s top aides said he accepted a Perry strategist’s denial.
“Let’s just say, there aren’t enough breadcrumbs that we can lay down that leads us anywhere else at this point,” Cain said Nov. 3 when asked on Sean Hannity’s radio show if he thought Perry’s campaign peddled the allegations to reporters.
Perry, in a Nov. 3 interview on CNN, said his campaign had nothing to do with the leak. If that proved not to be the case, he said, any employee involved would be “out the door.”
During a campaign stop yesterday in Tilton, New Hampshire, Anita Perry, the governor’s wife, addressed Cain’s charges that the Perry camp leaked the allegations.
“It makes me sad with the finger-pointing,” she said. “That’s not the point of this race.”
The Politico story about Cain’s behavior was published late on Oct. 30. A third woman told the Associated Press on Nov. 3 that she considered filing a complaint against Cain for what she considered aggressive behavior, including inviting her to his corporate apartment.
A Republican pollster who worked for the restaurant association said this week that Cain had sexually harassed a low-level staffer, whom he described as about two years out of college, at a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia.
“Everybody was aware of it,” Chris Wilson, a principal of an Oklahoma-based political consulting firm that is working for a group supporting the Perry campaign, said in an interview with KTOK radio in Oklahoma City. “So many people were aware of her situation, the fact she left. Everybody knew with the campaign that this would eventually come up.”
Wilson declined to offer further details to Bloomberg News about the incident, though he did say he didn’t leak the story to the media.
Cain, in his Hannity interview, denied Wilson’s harassment claim. “For him to say stuff like that, there again, where’s the documentation?” Cain said. “Where’s the proof? They don’t have any.”
Cain has offered conflicting answers to questions about the allegations. In a speech at the National Press Club on Oct. 31, he said he was unaware of any financial settlement of sexual harassment claims against him. On Nov. 1, Cain told CNN that the association paid a woman “somewhere in the vicinity of three to six months’ pay” after she complained about him.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at email@example.com