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Restaurant group confirms Cain settlement

The National Restaurant Assn. confirms it paid a financial settlement to a woman who complained of sexual harassment by then-chief executive Herman Cain, the Republican presidential hopeful.

November 04, 2011|By Melanie Mason and Tom Hamburger, Washington Bureau
  • Attorney Joel Bennett declined to name his client, one of two women who reportedly received settlements involving allegations against Herman Cain.
Attorney Joel Bennett declined to name his client, one of two women who reportedly… (Jose Luis Magana, Associated…)

Reporting from Washington — The National Restaurant Assn. confirmed Friday that it had paid a financial settlement to a woman who complained of sexual harassment by Herman Cain, and the woman's lawyer issued a statement saying the complaint involved "several instances" of "inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances."

The attorney, Joel Bennett, said the allegations in 1999 involved multiple instances "over a period of time, at least a month or two."

Bennett did not identify his client, one of two women reported to have received monetary settlements involving allegations against Cain during his three-year tenure as leader of the trade group. Bennett's client, a federal employee, was married at the time and remains so, he said. He declined to provide more details, saying his client felt it would be "extremely painful" to do so.

The restaurant association, in its statement, said that "Mr. Herman Cain disputed the allegations" at the time and that the settlement was made "without any admission of liability."

The statements marked the latest chapter in the sexual harassment controversy that has roiled the Cain campaign this week.

Since Sunday night, when Politico first reported the allegations against Cain, the candidate has offered a series of conflicting accounts. He first said he did not know whether any settlements had been paid and did not recall specifics of any allegations, then said his recollection was improving and offered his own version, which cast his behavior as innocent.

On Wednesday, Cain said he had told the entire story in detail in 2003 to a former aide who now works for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and he accused the Perry campaign of having leaked the story, something Perry's aides have denied.

But little has been heard from those who filed the complaints, whose settlements included a nondisclosure clause. Bennett's client sought release from that provision after Cain dismissed the sexual harassment complaints as untrue.

"[Cain] has generally said these complaints were baseless, that [he] did not engage in sexual harassment," Bennett said. "My client felt she wanted to respond to those statements in a prudent way." The restaurant association's current chief executive, Dawn Sweeney, said the group was willing to waive the confidentiality requirements should the woman desire to speak about the complaint.

But Bennett said additional comment was unlikely because his client "felt there is no value of revisiting the matter now or discussing it further publicly or privately."

Across town, Cain spoke to a Washington convention of conservative activists, giving no indication that he was distressed by the allegations.

So far, there has been no indication the allegations have harmed his campaign, which says donations have risen this week. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Friday showed Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney essentially tied among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

At a conference hosted by the tea party group Americans for Prosperity, Cain focused on his stump speech.

But he addressed another topic — his relationship with billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, founders of Americans for Prosperity.

"I'm very proud to know the Koch brothers," Cain said. "This may be a breaking news announcement for the media: I am the Koch brothers' brother from another mother."

David Koch, who was sitting in the front row of the packed ballroom, stood as the crowd burst into applause.

melanie.mason@latimes.com

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

Kim Geiger in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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