WASHINGTON – The lawyer for one of two women who reportedly accused Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment in the 1990s said Tuesday he had asked their former employer to waive an agreement and allow her to talk openly about her allegations.
Joel P. Bennett, a Washington lawyer who specializes in employment cases, said in media interviews that his client wants the National Restaurant Association to waive confidentiality so she can respond to Cain’s claims that the complaints were “totally baseless and totally false.”
A spokeswoman for the restaurant association, Sue Hensley, said Tuesday night that the group had not been contacted by Bennett. Cain, a Georgia businessman best known as the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, was head of the association at the time of the complaints.
Bennett told The Associated Press he would have more to say after he meets with his client Wednesday. In an interview Tuesday night on CNN, he said he stood behind his client.
“I know her very well,” he said, “And I’m sure she would not make a false complaint.”
The New York Times reported Tuesday night that the National Restaurant Association gave a female employee a year’s salary in severance pay, $35,000, after she said an encounter with Cain made her uncomfortable working there. The newspaper cited three people with knowledge of the payment to the woman, who was not Bennett’s client.
One of Cain’s rivals, Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), appeared to take a jab at Cain when she met Tuesday night with supporters at a Baptist church in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Though not mentioning Cain by name as she stood in the pulpit, Bachmann said: “This is the year when we can’t have any surprises with our candidate. We have to have a candidate that we can know, when we put them into office, we can trust them with their record of what they have done and who they are.”
Cain, meanwhile, spent Tuesday much as he did Monday, going from interview to interview to defend himself. There was time for politicking, too: He met Tuesday night with Republican senators at a restaurant near the Capitol as part of a meet-and-greet strategy with lawmakers whose support he is seeking.
Cain, who is black, said he believes race is also involved “but we don’t have any evidence to support it.” He added: “Relative to the left, I believe that race is a bigger driving factor. I don’t think it’s a driving factor on the right.”