A potentially huge shoe is dropping in the Herman Cain harassment scandal: one of his accusers indicated through her lawyer on Tuesday that she wants to come forward and tell her side of the story.
Joel P. Bennett, an attorney to one of the two National Restaurant Association employees who allegedly accused Cain of sexual harassment, told the Washington Post on Tuesday that his client is currently barred from speaking by a mutual non-disparagement agreement with the organization. But he says that agreement is being violated by Cain already, who has taken to the press to slam the harassment claim as “baseless,” and that she now wants to come forward and reveal herself to set the record straight.
“It is just frustrating that Herman Cain is going around bad-mouthing the two complainants, and my client is blocked by a confidentiality agreement,” Bennett said. “The National Restaurant Association ought to release them and allow them to respond.”
Bennett told the Post that if his client, who now works in the federal government, were given permission to speak about the incident “then it is whole new ballgame.”
Cain said on Monday that the matter was out of his hands. “The policy of the [National Restaurant Association] is not to divulge that information,” he told an audience at the National Press Club. “Unless they have changed the policies, I was chairman of the board, as far as we are concerned, enough said about the issue. There is nothing else there to dig up.”
A top sexual harassment attorney told TPM earlier that Cain may have already violated the agreement with his public attacks on his yet unnamed accusers and it seems that Bennett, who confirmed that there was a non-disparagement clause, is on the same page. Either way, this opens up a whole new set of issues for Cain and the NRA, who are likely to come under heavy pressure to let the woman speak given Cain’s stated intent to clear the air on the incident. All this right as Cain was starting to see some rays of hope of surviving the week unscathed as conservatives rallied to his defense and few new details emerged about the case.
A call to a spokesman for Cain for comment on the development was not immediately returned.
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.