One of two women who settled sexual harassment complaints against GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain when he headed the National Restaurant Association will know by Friday whether the group will release her from a gag rule that prevents her from speaking about the agreement.
The woman, however, is unlikely to go public even if the lobbying group lifts the confidentiality requirements imposed as part of the 1999 cash settlement, her lawyer says.
“My expectation is if we reach an agreement, the statement that will be issued will not identify her,” lawyer Joel Bennett told NPR. “I have no intention of releasing her name.”
“My understanding is also that she has no intention of releasing her name,” Bennett said. “She’s a private person who does not want to become a public figure.”
People who had direct knowledge of the complaints at the time have told NPR that they detail persistent harassment by Cain.
The harassment has been described to NPR as frequent, usually but not exclusively verbal, and involving sexually graphic comments and approaches when the women were alone with him in work situations.
Those same sources also say that the two women independently pursued their complaints, unaware of the other’s claim, and that at least one of the women reported her allegations to a supervisor, who passed it on to the organization’s human resources department. But the alleged behavior by Cain did not stop, NPR’s sources say.
Cain has denied the allegations. When asked for comment, Cain campaign spokesman JD Gordon responded with this statement: “Mr. Cain has said over the past two days at public events that we could see other baseless allegations made against him as this appalling smear campaign continues.”
“He has never acted in the way alleged by inside-the-beltway media, and his distinguished record over 40 years spent climbing the corporate ladder speaks for itself,” Gordon continued.
“Since his critics have not been successful in attacking his ideas, they are resorting to bitter personal attacks. Mr. Cain deserves better.”
The restaurant association in a statement acknowledged Thursday that its outside counsel has been asked to act by Friday afternoon on Bennett’s request on behalf of his client.
“We are currently reviewing the document, and we plan to respond tomorrow,” said Sue Hensley, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Communications for the National Restaurant Association.
Bennett also declined to “confirm or deny” a Politico report that his client received $45,000 to settle her complaint against Cain.
A second woman, who also alleged that she was sexually harassed by Cain when he ran the association between 1996 and 1999, reportedly received a year’s salary of $35,000 to settle her complaint, according to the New York Times.
Bennett characterized his client as a communications professional who does not want to appear in public or speak on the record. He will handle public statements, Bennett said, until his client advises him otherwise.
A story last Sunday in Politico that revealed the existence of the 12-year-old settlements with the two women started the firestorm around Cain, who has given evolving accounts about his knowledge of the complaints and settlements.
It has also led to a vigorous media pursuit of the women and their identities, a race which is only expected to intensify with the release of Bennett’s client from confidentiality restrictions.
Bennett’s client currently works for the federal government in a non-political, professional job.
Thursday’s developments, and the emergence this week of a third anonymous accuser and a man claiming to have witnessed inappropriate behavior by Cain, continued to complicate his run for the GOP presidential nomination.
Pollster Chris Wilson, who does work for Perry’s campaign alleged during an interview with radio station KTOK, says that he saw Cain acting inappropriately toward a female association employee at a suburban Washington restaurant. Wilson was doing work for the association at the time.
As Cain has risen in the polls, so has scrutiny of his past, including his stewardship of the Washington-based restaurant association after he left his position as the head of Godfather’s Pizza.
Cain, 65, has characterized the women’s claims as false, and described the situations in question as benign. He has suggested that the women who complained about his behavior didn’t understand his brand of humor, and accused presidential opponent Rick Perry’s campaign of being behind the leak of the more than decade-old allegations.
Perry’s campaign has strenuously denied the assertion.