Joel P. Bennett, a lawyer representing one of two women who made the claims against Cain, said Tuesday that his client is barred from publicly relating her side because of a non-disclosure agreement she signed upon leaving the National Restaurant Association, where Cain served as president from 1996 through 1999, The Washington Post reports.
“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 in an interview. “The National Restaurant Association ought to release them and allow them to respond.”
Bennett is calling on the association to waive the agreement so the woman, a federal worker living in suburban Maryland, can rebut Cain’s statements this week that the allegations were false and baseless.
A spokeswoman for the restaurant association, Sue Hensley, said that Mr. Bennett “has not been in contact with the association,” and that “if we are contacted by Mr. Bennett, we will respond as appropriate.”
The New York Times reported Tuesday night that a second woman received a settlement of $35,000, or one year’s salary, after Cain made her uncomfortable working at the restaurant association, according to three people with direct knowledge of the payment.
Four people with contemporaneous knowledge of the incident said the encounter had taken place in the context of a work outing during which there was heavy drinking, a hallmark, they said, of outings with an organization that represents the hospitality industry.
“He’s basically saying: ‘I never harassed anyone. These claims have no merit,’ ” said the lawyer, Joel P. Bennett of Washington. “And I’m sure my client would have a comeback to that.”
Asked Tuesday on the Fox News Channel why his account kept changing after the report appeared Sunday on Politico.com, Mr. Cain said, “When I first heard the word ‘settlement,’ I thought ‘legal settlement.’ ”
He added, “My recollection later is that there was an agreement.” The precise nature of the encounters between Mr. Cain and the two women remained murky.
He has said over the past two days that he joked with one of the women about her height. “I reference this lady’s height,” Cain said. “And I was standing near her and I did this, saying ‘you’re the same height as my wife.'”
But he has not addressed what happened with the other woman — the one said to have received the $35,000 payment. Her friends and colleagues said she had told them at the time that she was deeply uncomfortable about the situation.
It remained an open question how Mr. Cain would weather the political fallout from the allegations. His rivals for the Republican presidential nomination neither rallied to his defense nor offered a comment on the matter.
But some prominent conservatives stepped forward with supportive words for Mr. Cain, whose campaign said he had experienced a boost in fund-raising.
“As I watch this witch hunt of Herman Cain,” Rush Limbaugh said on his radio program Tuesday, “I’m reminded once again that whether they can do it or no, the media clearly believe that they can make or destroy any political candidate they choose.”
Mr. Cain’s rising appeal is rooted, in part, in his unconventional style and the fact that he is not seen as a typical politician. The sexual harassment allegations are providing the biggest test yet to his preparedness for office and his ability to react to a crisis.
Mr. Cain also kept a dinner appointment with a small group of Republican senators at a Washington steakhouse near the White House. He arrived through a parking garage and entered a private room in the basement of Bobby Van’s, which allowed him to bypass a cluster of reporters who gathered outside. [via The Washington Post, The New York Times and Huff Post]