Cain Denies Sexual Harassment Allegations But Questions Remain

Herman Cain's response to allegations of sexual harassment 20 years ago raise as many questions as they answer.

After initial responses from his staff that were fairly close to being incompetently disastrous, Herman Cain spent most of his day in Washington today responding to the allegations raised by the story posted by Politico last night regarding sexual harassment allegations made against him 20 years ago:

Herman Cain emphatically denied on Monday that he had ever sexually harassed anyone, calling allegations of harassment by two former employees “totally baseless and totally false” and saying that he is the innocent victim of a “witch hunt.”

With the allegations threatening his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Cain acknowledged in an interview with Fox News Channel the harassment charges during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association. He said he had been “falsely accused.”

Later Monday, during an appearance at the National Press Club, Cain said that “in all of my over 40 years of business experience — running businesses and corporations — I have never sexually harassed anyone.”

“I was falsely accused of sexual harassment, and when the charges were brought, as the leader of the organization, I recused myself and allowed my general counsel and my human resource officer to deal with the situation, and it was concluded after a thorough investigation that it had no basis,” Cain said.

Politico reported Sunday night that Cain had sexually harassed two women while he ran the trade association during the 1990s and that the women were given financial settlements and left the association.

Cain said that he was “unaware of any sort of settlement. I hope it wasn’t for much, because I didn’t do anything.”

Cain suggested that the report was the product of a “witch hunt” spurred by his recent surge in the polls in the GOP presidential contest.

“This bull’s-eye on my back has gotten bigger. We have no idea the source of this witch hunt, which is really what it is,” Cain said during a question-and-answer session following a 25-minute campaign speech before the National Press Club in downtown Washington. Cain’s comments were broadcast live on national cable television news networks.

In the morning Fox interview, Cain defended his integrity and suggested someone was putting a “cloud” over his campaign.

“It is totally baseless and totally false,” Cain added. “Never have I committed any sort of sexual harassment.”

Cain said there were no additional harassment allegations. Should any surface, Cain said, they would be “trumped-up allegations,” adding: “I assure you people will simply make them up.”

Jennifer Rubin, a former employment lawyer, wonders if Cain’s statement that he was unaware of any settlement — and NBC News has confirmed that at least one of the women involved received a settlement of some kind — is plausible:

For that to be true, many things would also have to be true:

●Herman Cain never asked the NRA how the claim got resolved;

●Cain never had to sign a settlement agreement or any other document;

●He trusted the NRA to obtain a complete release on his behalf, and the women never demanded that Cain release potential counterclaims (e.g., for defamation);

●He never agreed to keep the matter confidential — for example, after he left the NRA. (Arguably the association could bind him while he was still employed, but wouldn’t it have had to tell him to ensure compliance?); and

●In his role as CEO, Cain never had to approve a settlement, was never told the cost of the settlement and never saw a budget entry confirming a settlement.

Is this possible? I guess so. Is it probable? Hardly. Take note that he denied knowing not just the amount of the settlement but the fact of the settlement. That’s remarkable. At the very least, it would show an astounding lack of curiosity.

National Review’s Kevin Williamson is similarly skeptical of Cain’s statement that he was wholly unaware of any settlements with these women. Personally, I’ve got to say that my own experiences with setting a wide variety of legal claims over the past 15 years or so makes it hard to believe that the Chief Executive of an organization would be wholly unaware of the settlement of a claim involving a personnel matter, especially one in which that Chief Executive was being accused of wrong doing. More importantly, the questions that Rubin raises make such a lack of knowledge even less plausible. If there was a sexual harassment claim settlement that involved allegations of wrongdoing by Cain, then it’s hard to see how the claim could be settled without his knowledge and involvement in the process at some point.

But that assumes that the money the women received was in settlement of a bona fide sexual harassment claim. Consider this line from the original Politico report:

In one case, POLITICO has seen documentation describing the allegations and showing that the restaurant association formally resolved the matter. Both women received separation packages that were in the five-figure range.

Separation packages typically refer to the payments given to employees when they’re departing from a job, sometimes under less than ideal circumstances. Politico is pretty careful throughout the story to not describe the payments as settlements of sexual harassment claims, although one of the sources they quote in the body of the story does use that description. This suggests the possibility that that what was being alleged was something less than sexual harassment. David Frum points out another important piece of information, the fact that the reported payoffs were “in the five-figure range.” Now, this could mean anything from $10,000 to $99,999, but it seems like an awfully small amount for sexual harassment. As Frum points out, back around the time that this was happening, sexual harassment claims were already bringing verdicts in the million dollar neighborhood, with one case bringing an $80,000,000 verdict. What this suggests is that this may have all been a nuisance settlement by the trade association, with the cost of settlement being cheaper than the legal and reputational costs of defending the claims.

The Cain campaign’s response so far has been ham-handed to say the least. They should have been more forthright with Politico during the ten days that this story was pending. And their initial responses have raised more questions than they answer. However, that may simply be evidence of a badly run communications office rather than evidence of guilt. Until Politico releases more details about these allegations we really don’t have a whole heck of a lot to go one here and piling on a candidate based simply on anonymous sources and parties required to remain silent due to the terms of a legal agreement, strikes me as a rush to judgment. If there’s more, then we’ll deal with it then.

One final thought, though. At the National Press Club today, Cain said in response to a question, and quite emphatically, that there was “nothing else” out there. He’d better hope that’s true because if reporters don’t have it already, they will shortly.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    I don’t wish to diminish the seriousness of sexual harassment, but there’s a credible argument that Rick Perry let an innocent man be executed in Texas and then obstructed an investigation into the matter. There’s a credible argument that at least a few members of the previous administration qualify as war criminals. THAT never caused 1/10th the media fury that these allegations Herman Cain may have behaved somewhat inappropriately in the workplace 20 years ago. Is the Beltway media so, pardon the expression, pussy whipped that they react to sexual harassment charges like they’re the equivalent of crimes against humanity?

    Mike

  2. WR says:

    @MBunge: It’s not sexual harassment, it’s sex. That’s fun to write about and doesn’t require difficult concepts like “innocence” or “war crimes.”

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    Josh Marshall has the fluid time line; More questions with each response.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In his role as CEO, Cain never had to approve a settlement, was never told the cost of the settlement and never saw a budget entry confirming a settlement.

    This is what gets me…. all I can say is, “Liar Liar, pants on fire.”

    Either he knew everything that was going on in relation to this situation (hence a liar) or he is totally incompetent. Sorry Herman, pick one….

    ps: I suppose he could be suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s…..

  5. michael reynolds says:

    All he had to say was, “I was a younger man then, I didn’t understand how offensive my joking around could be, and I’m terribly sorry that I made those women feel badly.”

    Why? Why don’t they ever get it?

  6. Michael,

    And they knew this story was coming for almost two weeks.

    But you are correct, the number of times that politicians hurt themselves by not being honest up front with stories like this is pretty large.

  7. ponce says:

    Time for Jeb Bush to save the Republicans from themselves.

  8. Hey Norm says:

    Romney is a happy guy tonight.

  9. Hey Norm says:

    @ Ponce…
    What’s the bumper sticker?
    BUSH ’12
    I’m the smarter one…

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    If this was the first time I’d understand. But this isn’t rocket science at this point. EVERYBODY knows it’s the cover-up that gets you. Anthony Weiner a couple months ago, now this idiot. Whatever you do, you never deny and then leave a trail for the media and the internets to follow.

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    Dudes says “your as tall as my wife” and is charged up by some Let me guess…A brainwashed liberal man hater? And you people go on on….

    Sigh…
    A couple months pay is

    hardly a settlement
    BRIBE FOR KEEPING A SEXUAL HARASMENT QUITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!DAMN!!!!!!!!!

    Inuendo and presupasition all day long.

  12. doubter4444 says:

    So you are more willing to think a totally offhand comment got a “liberal man hater” all fired up?
    And you are also willing to completely ignore the context of the post and the responses – that it’s the Cain’s explanation that is the issue?
    Ideological blinders – Exhibit (g) A:

    Dudes says “your as tall as my wife” and is charged up by some Let me guess…A brainwashed liberal man hater? And you people go on on….

    Sigh…
    A couple months pay is

    hardly a settlement
    BRIBE FOR KEEPING A SEXUAL HARASMENT QUITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!DAMN!!!!!!!!!

    Inuendo and presupasition all day long.

  13. ponce says:

    G.A. reminding us why Obama will get 60% of the female vote next year.

  14. Eric Florack says:

    @MBunge:

    Is the Beltway media so, pardon the expression, pussy whipped that they react to sexual harassment charges like they’re the equivalent of crimes against humanity?

    That depends on the target, if we take history as our guide.
    If the target is a threat to the Democrats, of course they’ll react that way. Say, a Herman Cain, or a Clarence Thomas. No smear is too low.

    If on the other hand we’re dealing with a President, say Bubba “Better put some ice on that” Clinton…. you’ll never see that kind of screaming, until someone figures out that keeping them in office will cost the liberal mantra more than removing them. In Bubba’s case, it cost less to cast Paula Jones as trailer park trash.

    Take Anthony Weiner, on the other hand, as an example of one who got too costly to keep in office. And watch the progression from overt defense to overt disconnection from the party, in that case as the cost of keeping him in office became too great.
    John Edwards to a lesser degree.

    IN any event, let be clear about the motivations, here. The Democrats are in a full panic, knowing they stand on the very edge of losing the WH and both houses of Congress. As such, they’re flailing around for anything that will keep them afloat Given those conditions nobody should be suprised at the intensity of the liberal press and their wailing over this.

    Think I’m kidding? Ask yourself; Had someone made that kind of slur on Obama, woldn’t we be hearing about such attacks were racist? Wouldn’t the press and the leftie blogs be on an all out search and destroy mission against anyone who treated such charges as factual?
    ,

  15. G.A.Phillips says:

    G.A. reminding us why Obama will get 60% of the female vote next year.

    Keep counting them chicks before they come home to roost ponce…

    So you are more willing to think a totally offhand comment got a “liberal man hater” all fired up?

    lol.. me being a **** and using logic…sorry…I can read and add…and be a *** too…

    And you are also willing to completely ignore the context of the post and the responses – that it’s the Cain’s explanation that is the issue?

    I just blew that aways…man…you guys got it all wrong…if your not one of the guys and just a pedestrian here forgive me..

    Keep counting them chicks before they come home to roost ponce…

    lol it will take the liberals a month of sundays to figure this little jibber jab out completely…and as always I am arguing and making funny with liberals with half my ass tied behind my back just to make it fair….

  16. Janis Gore says:

    You know, boys, these associations could save a lot of money if women could just slap the shit out of you once or twice before you called security.

  17. ponce says:

    Keep counting them c

    hicks before they come home to roost ponce…

    Make that 65%

    OT: Nothing at all on UNESCO making Palestine a member and the U.S. cutting off funding to UNESCO today?

  18. Ron Beasley says:

    Just watched Cain on Greta Van Susteren – pathetic. He couldn’t even handle Greta’s soft balls and looked like an idiot liar.

  19. anjin-san says:

    The Democrats are in a full panic, knowing they stand on the very edge of losing the WH and both houses of Congress.

    Oh my, that is funny. Meanwhile, here on planet Earth, we watch GOP clown prince du jours flame out one after another after another…

  20. Ron Beasley says:

    @anjin-san: You are so right – the biggest fans of the anybody but Romney movement is the Democrats. Bring on the clowns!

  21. WR says:

    @michael reynolds: I can actually sypathize with Weiner — and Clinton — a lot more. Because they committed major indiscretions in their marriages, and I’m sure they were praying they could get through without hurting their wives. (Or if you’re less generous, really pissing off their wives.) But what does Cain have to hide here? It’s something that happened ages ago…

  22. WR says:

    @Eric Florack: “Had someone made that kind of slur on Obama, woldn’t we be hearing about such attacks were racist?”

    Another message from fantasyland. Here in the real world, the leader of the Republican party, Rush Limbaugh, has already called this attack racist.

    But I love the reasoning behind “the press always covers up Democratic sex scandals, except for these dozen examples that spring immediately to mind, which just proves that the press in in the tank for Democrats, even though every thing I’ve just said denies that.” Clear thinking as always, Bit.

  23. WR says:

    @G.A.Phillips: “lol it will take the liberals a month of sundays to figure this little jibber jab out completely…and as always I am arguing and making funny with liberals with half my ass tied behind my back just to make it fair…. ”

    Maybe if you used your whole ass, you’d be able to write actual English sentences and people would be able to understand what the hell you were trying to say. Not that I’m convinced that would be a positive.

  24. G.A.Phillips says:

    Make that 65%

    🙂

  25. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @MBunge: In fairness, I think both of those issues have been resolved. First, a Perry supporter (I have to assume) resolved the Perry charge by noting “it takes a lot of b@^^s to execute an inocent man.” On the members of the previous administration, we won. When have the winners ever been accused of war crimes? It’s unseemly.

    In answer to your question, yes, the beltway media are that pussy whipped.

  26. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: I think the are afraid of the correlary to the adage–if the truth wont make you free, it’s because you deserve what’s coming to you.

    Karma is a b!#^h.

  27. Eric Florack says:

    Oh my, that is funny.

    Oh, please do keep laughing.

    Another message from fantasyland. Here in the real world, the leader of the Republican party, Rush Limbaugh, has already called this attack racist.

    If it’s racist to attack black liberals, (And how often has the race card gotten played with Obama?) what about Black conservatives makes attacking them NOT racist? Look, you know, if we were talking aout a liberal black this way, the press would have names already and would be making examples of these women calling tgem racists for trying to destroy a black politician. Go ahead, and tell me how that doesn’t happen.

    But I love the reasoning behind “the press always covers up Democratic sex scandals, except for these dozen examples that spring immediately to mind, which just proves that the press in in the tank for Democrats, even though every thing I’ve just said denies that.” Clear thinking as always, Bit.

    there’s no denying the press and the hard left was busy making excuses for the behavior. . And when places like Fox and CNS are doing the heavy lifting on such stories, the left gets a chance to deny that the story is factual because they’re not :”real news”. The fact is wed never get such news, was it not for such as Fox and CNS and so on. How many times did we see that get played out during Clinton?

  28. Scott F. says:

    I’m so disappointed that this will disqualify Cain while his nutty policy ideas won’t.

  29. WR says:

    @Eric Florack: ” The fact is wed never get such news, was it not for such as Fox and CNS and so on. How many times did we see that get played out during Clinton? ”

    Uh-huh. Who was it who invented the entire Whitewater “scandal” and hyped it for months? Oh, right, the “liberal” New York Times.

  30. Eric Florack says:

    Uh-huh. Who was it who invented the entire Whitewater “scandal” and hyped it for months? Oh, right, the “liberal” New York Times.

    Yeah… and while Fox and the Examiner were front paging it, the Times buried the thing on a-26. No sale.

    And it was no ‘invention’.

  31. matt b says:

    @Eric Florack:

    there’s no denying the press and the hard left was busy making excuses for the behavior

    The height of partisanship is to accuse one side of doing something that continues to occur on your side. Generally speaking, it is fair to say that many press outlets have dragged their feet on a number of sex related stories involving democratic and liberal politician — until firm evidence emerged.

    However, given the current spin on the Cain affair on right wing talk radio, and the general hands off treatment in conservative medial of other Republican sex scandals (with the exception of when ho-ho-homosexuality is involved) — how about gingrich, vitter, ensign to start with — its hard to argue that Conservative outlets are not doing the exact same thing you describe above (i.e. making excuses for the behavior).

  32. WR says:

    @Eric Florack: What lunatic excuse of a universe to you live in? Jeff Gerth invented the whole scandal and the Times front paged it from day one. Months later Gerth admitted there were serious mistakes in his reporting — I believe he blamed those on his editors — but the Times kept pluggin away.

    And sure, Fox ran with it, like the sleazy bottom feeders they always have been. So what?

  33. ck says:

    @Eric Florack: “Yeah… and while Fox and the Examiner were front paging it, the Times buried the thing on a-26. No sale.”

    Neither Fox News nor the Washington Examiner existed at the time the Whitewater scandal broke. Fox News began operation in 1996, the Examiner in 2005.

    The NY Times did not “bury” the story but rather ran it as the top story on their front page on March 8, 1992.

  34. Eric Florack says:

    Sigh.

    Neither Fox News nor the Washington Examiner existed at the time the Whitewater scandal broke. Fox News began operation in 1996, the Examiner in 2005.

    Not the point I was making, though admittedly I should have been more specific. The point was and remains that Whitewater got “handled” as opposed to reported by the Times.. Other outlets took that task on far better.

    Generally speaking, it is fair to say that many press outlets have dragged their feet on a number of sex related stories involving democratic and liberal politician — until firm evidence emerged.

    I don’t consider that there’s a great deal of value in limiting the discussions to sex scandals. Say rather, wrongdoing. And by the way, this isn’t a sex scandal, either.

    However, given the current spin on the Cain affair on right wing talk radio, and the general hands off treatment in conservative medial of other Republican sex scandals (with the exception of when ho-ho-homosexuality is involved) — how about gingrich, vitter, ensign to start with — its hard to argue that Conservative outlets are not doing the exact same thing you describe above (i.e. making excuses for the behavior).

    Same answer.

    Further, lets look at what we have here, in this case:
    A 20 year old case, with no names, no specific charges, from second hand sources. In short, A classic hit piece. The outstanding question is why anyone takes Politico seriously, anymore. Reynolds says it well:

    And I continue to ask: Would Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, Anna Palmer and Kenneth Vogel have put their names on a similar piece, with no named sources, aimed at Barack Obama? Would Politico have run it? And how will people respond — will people respond? — to the next big “scoop” from Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, Anna Palmer and Kenneth Vogel? Or from Politico?

  35. anjin-san says:

    So bithead, your response is that conservatives are… victims.

    Well that certainly is original.

  36. anjin-san says:

    though admittedly I should have been more specific.

    Is this another way of saying “I am making things up as I go along”?

  37. Drew says:

    I thought the best part of Cain’s remarks were when he squinted his eyes, looked into the camera, wagged his finger and said in his best mean, pissed off voice “now you listen to me, I did not have sex with that woman……….”

  38. matt bernius says:

    @Eric Florack:
    To spell out why politico ran with it (and would have done the same with Obama … see Rescinded and others in ’08).

    a. Cain is current flavor of the moment.
    b. There was proof of a settlement
    c. To keep getting stuff from the source (the question is which source)
    d. That it would definitely generate traffic (see a & b)
    e. It was easy content

    What was interesting to me was to see the contortions that republican/conservative pundits were going through to blame liberals. Chances are that this was either the work of Perry’s camp or mainstream Republican strategists (there is a different of Rove too).

    But of course this type of eating ones own is only a part of the democratic party….

    (Btw… wasn’t Politico onto the Wiener thing pretty much from the start?)

  39. anjin-san says:

    Drew,

    When you are in a board meeting, do you use the “mom, the other kids did it too” excuse?

  40. ponce says:

    Cain must be doing something right, he’s the only candidate whose image has gotten better since the primary season began:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/150482/GOP-Field-Cain-Image-Better-Earlier-Year.aspx

  41. Eric Florack says:

    Ponce… and so therefore, he;s a threat. Hence the story.

    Chances are that this was either the work of Perry’s camp or mainstream Republican strategists (there is a different of Rove too).

    Actually, I raised that possibility at my own place last night. I doubt Perry;s camp, but I wouldn’t put it past the Castrati.

  42. anjin-san says:

    Castrati

    You are one strange dude…

  43. matt b says:

    @Eric Florack:
    Out of curiousity, why not Perry’s camp? Right now he — not Romney — has the most to gain from Cain’s fall. If I was a Romney strategist, I’d want Cain to maintain his “leadership” position for as long as possible.

    There isn’t a lot of crossover between core supporters, and I’d bet that the Romney campaign figures that the same people who pulled the leaver for McCain in 2008 during the primaries will ultimately go for Romney if faced with the choice of him and Cain (see James and others here for examples of moderate Republicans who most likely could not bring themselves to vote for Cain).

    Perry on the other hand is most hurt by Cain, and most likely to hurt Romney. So he has far more to gain from this.

    Now the general Rovian GOP establishment… that’s a different story… Though I suspect that they wouldn’t mind a loss in 2012 — provided it allows them to break the back of the Tea Party.

  44. Eric Florack says:

    Castrati?

    Yes. The GOP minus testicular mass. Deathly afraid to actually BE conservative.

    Out of curiousity, why not Perry’s camp? Right now he — not Romney — has the most to gain from Cain’s fall.

    A fair question and the answer is a gut feeling that he hasn’t the organization or the personality to pull such a thing off. Further as has been pointed out the Politico tends to lean toward the Castrati, of which Perry is decidedly not a member.

  45. anjin-san says:

    Yes. The GOP minus testicular mass. Deathly afraid to actually BE conservative.

    Hmmm. Kind of reminds me of your obsessive posting about Obama “bending over forward” in 2009.

    You might want to reflect upon your projection of confused (and disturbing) male sexual imagery onto people who’s politics you do not like. Tie this in with your obvious rage issues and therapy is not a bad idea at all.

    At any rate, we seem to have stumbled on to one of the conclusions of your belief system. It takes balls to be a raging idiot. You are wrong of course, but I could see why this belief might be comforting for you.

  46. Eric Florack says:

    Hmmm. Kind of reminds me of your obsessive posting about Obama “bending over forward” in 2009.

    Yes, you do seem to have a certain fascination for that kind of thing.

    It takes balls to be a raging idiot.

    Given your history, you’ll forgive me if I don’t take too seriously your definition of a raging idiot. Rather, I’ll take your actions as fine example of such… as you demonstrate daily.

  47. anjin-san says:

    Yes, you do seem to have a certain fascination for that kind of thing.

    You were the one who kept using that expression bubba, not me. Don’t you have anything better to serve up that that lame evasion? What am I thinking? Of course you don’t.

    Given your history, you’ll forgive me if I don’t take too seriously your definition of a raging idio

    You mean my history of being right about things you are wrong about? How did that Democratic civil war in Denver work out for you? Aside from lowering the bar quite a bit, how has your girl Sarah reshaped American politics?

    Of course we all know you are a Rick Perry fanboy Rick Perry, who has given new meaning to the expression “train wreck”. Cool speech he gave in NH the other night. Was he talking to an group of meth cooks? If so, he was speaking their language.