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November 02, 2011 8:00 AM Cain controversy far from ‘done’

By Steve Benen

About 24 hours ago, Herman Cain’s chief of staff, Mark Block, declared his candidate’s sexual-harassment controversy “done.” There wasn’t anything more to talk about, Block said, so the political world can just “move on.”

Let’s put that in the file labeled “wishful thinking.”

Any hopes that this would be a one-day story for Cain quickly vanished when Cain addressed every relevant detail, and changed his version of events several times. This, not surprisingly, not only kept the story alive, but signaled to reporters that they should keep digging.

Of particular interest are the financial settlements given to Cain’s accusers. The Republican presidential candidate initially said he knew nothing about the settlements, then said he was aware of it, then said the payments covered “three months” salary, and then said “three to six months’ severance pay.”

The truth is more interesting.

The National Restaurant Association gave $35,000 — a year’s salary — in severance pay to a female staff member in the late 1990s after an encounter with Herman Cain, its chief executive at the time, made her uncomfortable working there, three people with direct knowledge of the payment said on Tuesday.

The woman was one of two whose accusations of sexual harassment by Mr. Cain, now a Republican candidate for president, led to paid severance agreements during his 1996-99 tenure at the association. Disclosure of the scale of the severance further challenged his initial description of the matter as a “witch hunt,” as did new descriptions from the woman’s friends and colleagues of her level of discomfort at work.

These details not only matter because they contradict all of Cain’s various claims, but also because they speak to the merit of the allegations. When Cain spoke to Fox News on Monday night, he said three months’ severance was “well within the range of what we would do if we had an amicable separation between the association and an employee.” That would be true. But since the trade organization’s lawyers were willing to pay a full year’s severance, it suggests it was not at all “an amicable separation,” and that NRA counsel was concerned about the accusations.

Making matters slightly worse for Cain, his other accuser is apparently eager to address the charges.

A woman who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment in the 1990s is ready for her story to come out, her attorney said Tuesday, even as the Republican presidential hopeful spent a second day trying to quell the mounting controversy and explain his conflicting recollections of the matter.

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 woman has heard Cain describe her allegations as false and baseless, and wants to defend herself, but can’t because she’s limited by a confidentiality agreement. If the National Restaurant Association waives the restrictions, the woman can respond publicly.

The question for Cain, then, is pretty straightforward: will he urge the NRA to lift the confidentiality agreement and allow the public to hear both sides?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • c u n d gulag on November 02, 2011 8:04 AM:

    "The question for Cain, then, is pretty straightforward: will he urge the NRA to lift the confidentiality agreement and allow the public to hear both sides?"

    NO!!!

    This has been today's edition of...

  • FRP on November 02, 2011 8:11 AM:

    Much as any healthy person dislikes seeing another in distress , when a person is served and as a representative of an entire movement , calling the stress this person and step by step the entire movement inflicts on the public , calling it by any name other than what it is , koo dose for a discovery of the same , parallel history being unfolded , albeit criminally .

  • Eeyore on November 02, 2011 8:13 AM:

    I see the standard Republican response is: Oh, you know those uppity girls.... they just can't take a joke! This is a plot made up by libberulll feminazis who are bitter because they can't get a man who will take care of them.

  • Ron Byers on November 02, 2011 8:17 AM:

    C U N D, Your view of what Herman Cain will or will not do is probably accurate. In a world with a working press not releasing the woman from her non-disclosure would be unacceptable to Cain.

    But we live in a Fox News world so Cain will probably get away with it.

  • Hedda Peraz on November 02, 2011 8:21 AM:

    This is SUCH a non-story!
    What we should be concentrating on, is China's attempts to get nucular weapons.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 02, 2011 8:23 AM:

    The most telling thing is it hasn't seemed to affect his fund raising or poll numbers.
    We like us some crazy misogynist candidate in our party.

    It's like they are all putting their fingers in their ears and yelling NANANANANANA.

    America ; Too stupid for democracy.

  • nitpicker on November 02, 2011 8:32 AM:

    Question: Don't these nondisclosure agreements work both ways? Isn't it a violation for Cain to be talking about it? If not, why not?

  • Salmo on November 02, 2011 8:39 AM:

    The disqualifying scandal is his illegal campaign cash, and who it came from. The sex scandal is serving as cover, and Cain's behavior keeps it going. As to its origins, who writes $100,000 checks to unknown ex-pizza chain executives, and routes it through disgraced, corrupt Wisconsin political operatives.

  • Stevio on November 02, 2011 8:42 AM:

    I hear that David Gregory is so upset with the recent allegations of sexual harassment lodged against CAINandable that he went out and purchased a new 35 piece suit.

    Wolf Blitzer, unable to control his emotions over this series of events, was seem ordering seconds and a large dessert at a sushi restaurant.

    John King distraught over the allegations and the swift spanking CAINandable received from the Liberal Free Press, committed suicide.

    Rush Limbaugh, hands wrangling, dropped six pills on the floor of his studio and received eleven stitches to his head that he bumped while reaching for the spilled nectar too quickly.

  • Danp on November 02, 2011 8:51 AM:

    I would think that Cain's dismissal of the allegations through a specific description of what happened (telling the woman about his wife's height) would be violation enough to allow the woman to make a public challenge. If the NRA doesn't release her from her obligation, I would bet a judge will.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 02, 2011 8:59 AM:

    @Danp My guess is he was comparing another part of the woman's anatomy to his wife's - not her height. That will extend to ...well she misunderstood me....

  • berttheclock on November 02, 2011 9:09 AM:

    Geez, Hedda hits a homer. Yes, indeed, there should be far more concern about Cain's ignorance on nuclear weapons in China, which probably, is about the same level of his far right supporters. His lack of knowledge about such matters is appalling, but, as noted on Morning Joe, it has not moved his support downward, while, Romney's remains stagnant. Should Cain's gaffes take him down, many conservatives may sit out the election, unless, there is a very late push for Jeb Bush.

  • T2 on November 02, 2011 9:10 AM:

    again, the Cain Campaign Financing Scandal is considerably more serious than this harassment thing, in the national sense. But the sex thing is completely hogging the Media. You don't want two scandals at the same time, but for Cain, he's benefitting from the Media fascination with sex. They are looking at the wrong thing.

  • SouthernPointOfView on November 02, 2011 9:17 AM:

    The real unanswered question is Where they white women?

    If no, they are just a bunch of shameless hussies intent upon bringing down a black republican!

    If yes, get out the rope!

  • berttheclock on November 02, 2011 9:25 AM:

    His comment that he would stop China from developing nuclear weapons would automatically stop any Democrat from running any further for the Presidency. Yet, most of the media gives him a pass.

  • SWENXOF on November 02, 2011 9:31 AM:

    Herm was on my TeeVee this morning (Today Show) saying that he thinks his "race" definitely has something to do with the allegations. He quickly followed with, "I don't have any evidence for that, but I think that".

    That last line should be engraved on every Republican's forehead.

    Pass the popcorn, but please hold the butter. At the rate I'm consuming it, I'm going to need diet popcorn.

  • Gov't Mule on November 02, 2011 9:39 AM:

    Cain is using the confidentiality agreement as weapon. He knows the woman is supposed to be legally barred from discussing the details of the settlement but he keeps making claims that he knows the vicim isn't supposed to respond to.

    I asked this question in a previous post by Steve whether or not Cain himself has violated the confidentiality agreement. Moreover, IMO these are extraordinary legal circumstances where the accuser is a Presidential candidate that has a legitimate shot at winning the nomination. The newsworthiness of that alone should be enough to bypass the confidentiality agreement, especially if Cain continues to talk in a manner disparaging the victims.

  • Gov't Mule on November 02, 2011 9:42 AM:

    @ Hedda: It's NUCLEAR, not Nucular. Thank our idiot previous President for poisoning that word for millions of Americans.

  • Ned on November 02, 2011 9:47 AM:

    $35,000 is small potatoes to settle a sexual harassment suit, even in the 90s. There was likely no "quid pro quo" (e.g., "sexual favors and a promotion" or "sexual favors or you lose your job"), but rather some kind of action (language, ass grabbing, jokes) that made the woman feel that there was an "intimidating work environment". It was probably pervasive enough that there were plenty of witnesses - and Cain may have been named in the suit because he was the chief executive and tolerated/engaged in it.

    Cain's defense of it, his other crazy positions and the illegal kick-off to his candidacy are bigger deals.

  • Shelly on November 02, 2011 9:51 AM:

    No, Gov't Mule, hedd ap er az is right. It's totally nucular.

  • chi res on November 02, 2011 10:36 AM:

    So what happens if she breaks the confidentiality agreement? She has to repay the $35,000?

    It would probably be worth it for a supporter of another repub candidate to pay her to talk.

  • burro on November 02, 2011 10:37 AM:

    SWENXOF @ 9:31 AM:

    "I don't have any evidence for that, but I think that".

    That last line should be engraved on every Republican's forehead.

    Word.

  • bdop4 on November 02, 2011 10:42 AM:

    I second Danp. Confidentiality is a two-way street and I would think that Cain violated his obligations under the agreement by denying the claim.

    Unless she agreed to a totally one-sided agreement, but that could be challenged as well if she didn't have legal representation.

  • chi res on November 02, 2011 10:43 AM:

    "It's over," Block said, buttoning his trousers and taking a long drag from his hand-rolled cigarette. "We can move on now."

  • C. C. on November 02, 2011 11:01 AM:

    I'm curious how much Cain's salary was at the time. I'm sure it was dramatically higher than 35 K per year. If the allegations prove true, he was certainly going after a woman way down the chain of command. Vulturous behavior, it seems.

  • Quaker in a Basement on November 02, 2011 11:22 AM:

    The question for Cain, then, is pretty straightforward:

    I expect Mr. Cain's answer will be equally straightforward.

  • terptwerpy on November 02, 2011 11:23 AM:

    What is slipping under the radar here is that Mr. Cain thinks that $35k is what most people make in 3 months work...

    ...must be nice thinking the littles are so well off.

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