(Photo: REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst)
The lawyer of a woman who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment over a decade ago rejected the Republican presidential candidate’s denials Friday, saying his client faced several unwanted advances for at least a month.
The woman suffered “a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances … over a period of time, at least a month or two,” lawyer Joel Bennett told reporters outside his office in Georgetown in Washington, D.C., Friday.
Bennett, the lawyer for one of the two women who accused Cain of sexual misconduct when he was president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, did not give details of the alleged incidents. “Mr. Cain knows the specific incidents that were alleged,” he said. “My client filed a written complaint in 1999 against him specifically and it had very specific instances in it, and if he chooses not to remember or to acknowledge those, that’s his issue.”
Bennett met the press mainly to rebuff statements by 65-year-old Cain that he was falsely accused by the former employees of the association and that the allegations were part of a “witch hunt” against him. “This is absolutely fabrication, man,” Cain told radio host Sean Hannity Thursday.
Bennett said his client “stands by the complaint that she made.” She would disagree with the statements made by Cain concerning her complaint, he added. “It qualified as sexual harassment in our opinion.”
Bennett claimed that a third woman called and told him recently that she too was sexually harassed by Cain but she had not made a formal complaint. “There’s an expression where there’s smoke there’s fire. The fact that there are multiple complaints tells me that it’s more likely than not that there was some sexual harassment activity by this man at that time,” he said, adding, “All of that’s subject to proof.”
The restaurant association on Friday confirmed that “in July 1999, Mr. Bennett’s client filed a formal internal complaint, in accordance with the Association’s existing policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment.” However, Cain “disputed the allegations in the complaint” even at that time, the president and CEO of the association, Dawn Sweeney, said in a statement.
“The Association and Mr. Bennett’s client subsequently entered into an agreement to resolve the matter, without any admission of liability,” Sweeney added.
The association reportedly paid the woman $45,000, as payout to leave the organization. “Mr. Cain was not a party to that agreement,” Sweeney clarified. It contained mutual confidentiality obligations, but the association had agreed to put aside the confidentiality provisions in case the woman was willing to discuss the allegations, the statement added.
But Bennett said his client “sees no value in revisiting” the incident, as she and her husband fear that going public would be “extremely painful to do so.”
Meanwhile, the allegations seem to have little bearing on Cain’s support as he seeks the GOP presidential nomination. According to a Rasmussen Reports poll, Cain was leading former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney by 3 percent among conservative voters as of Thursday.
In this continued support, Cain perhaps sees hope. He wants to move past the allegations. His spokesman, J.D. Gordon, said Friday, “We look forward to focusing our attention on the real issues impacting this country – like fixing this broken economy and putting Americans back to work through our 9-9-9 Plan, as well as strengthening national security.”