A lawyer representing one of two women who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment told reporters on Friday that his client’s initial complaint was legitimate and that Cain’s statements to the press have been inaccurate. Nonetheless, she has declined to come forward to tell her story.
The attorney, Joel Bennett, read aloud a statement that he says he wrote with the woman, who he says has been married for 26 years, saying that she “stands by the complaint she made.”
“She made a complaint in good faith about a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances from the CEO,” Bennett said. “The complaints were resolved in an agreement with the acceptance of a monetary settlement. She and her husband see no value in revisiting this matter now, nor in discussing the matter any further, publicly or privately. In fact it would be extremely painful to do so.”
Cain has said that the one payout he was aware of was closer to a severance package than any kind of settlement over inappropriate behavior. Bennett said that was inaccurate and that the agreement was clearly tied to the sexual harassment complaint. Asked whether it was possible Cain didn’t know about the settlement, since has only acknowledged one of the cases, Bennett said it may have been resolved after he left the NRA but that it still was highly unlikely he wouldn’t be informed.
“I would be astounded if the complaint was not brought to his attention,” he said.
While he said he was not aware of the other woman who filed a complaint against Cain, he indicated the existence of other accusers bolstered his client’s claim that Cain sexually harassed women.
“There’s an expression: where there’s smoke there’s fire,” he said. “the fact that there are multiple complaints tells me that there was probably some sexual harassment behavior by this man at that time.”
At the same time as the press conference, the National Restaurant Association issued a statement confirming the settlement publicly for the first time and indicating they had agreed to let Bennett’s client break her non-disclosure agreement and speak freely if she so chooses.
“Based upon the information currently available, we can confirm that more than a decade ago, in July 1999, Mr. Bennett’s client filed a formal internal complaint, in accordance with the Association’s existing policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment,” the statement read. “Mr. Herman Cain disputed the allegations in the complaint. The Association and Mr. Bennett’s client subsequently entered into an agreement to resolve the matter, without any admission of liability. Mr. Cain was not a party to that agreement. The agreement contains mutual confidentiality obligations. Notwithstanding the Association’s ongoing policy of maintaining the privacy of all personnel matters, we have advised Mr. Bennett that we are willing to waive the confidentiality of this matter and permit Mr. Bennett’s client to comment. As indicated in Mr. Bennett’s statement, his client prefers not to be further involved with this matter and we will respect her decision.”
According to the NRA, the company “has robust policies designed to ensure that employees with concerns may bring them forward for prompt investigation and resolution, without risk of retaliation.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.