Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Politics

Elections

Cain Harassment Issue: Who Said What to Whom?

As questions multiply over the nature of sexual harassment claims made against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, finger-pointing and denials among top rivals are widening.

Meanwhile, one of the accuser's attorneys is seeking his client's release from her confidentiality agreement despite the accuser's reluctance to go public.

The campaigns of Rick Perry and Mitt Romney -- Cain's top challengers in the 2012 GOP race -- are denying charges they were the source of the story that broke Sunday claiming two women had received financial settlements in a dispute over alleged inappropriate behavior by Cain, the former head of the National Restaurant Association. 

On Wednesday, Cain's top aide accused Perry's campaign of being behind the release of the stories. 

"This is one of the actions in America that is the reason why people don't get involved in politics," Mark Block, Cain's campaign chief of staff, said in an exclusive interview with Fox News' "Special Report." "The actions of the Perry campaign are despicable."

"Rick Perry and his campaign owe Herman Cain and his family an apology," Block added. 

The Cain campaign suggested the source for that story was longtime GOP consultant Curt Anderson, who worked for Cain's failed 2004 U.S. Senate bid and had been debriefed on the harassment allegations by Cain himself. Anderson now works for Perry.

But Anderson told Fox News on Thursday that he had absolutely nothing to do with the story, and he gives any media member he's spoken to "carte blanche" to write down anything he's ever discussed with them.

"When in doubt tell the truth. That's the only reason I came on today. You only have one reputation, and I think a person's character and integrity is the only thing someone has in life," Anderson said, adding he didn't know anything about the story nor did he peddle it to anyone.

"They've gone out and said some things about me that are not true. I think in these situations, I think this is exactly why people hate politics, all this foolishness," Anderson said.

Block responded that all the evidence pointed to Anderson, but he is going to move on from the topic.

"I will stand behind what we said yesterday," Block said of his accusations pointing to the Perry team. He added that the campaign had been told information that pointed to Anderson. "Until we get all the facts, we accept what Mr. Anderson said and we want to move on with the campaign. .... We were absolutely thrilled that he came on your show and said that it wasn't because Mr. Cain always had the utmost respect for him."

On Wednesday, Perry campaign also disavowed any connection to the story, calling Block's charge "reckless and false." Perry campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan added that backers of Romney's campaign are connected to the National Restaurant Association. The Romney team responded simply that any suggestion it pushed the Cain story is "not true."

One of the women, who lives in Maryland and has served as a spokeswoman for several federal agencies, refuses to let her attorney reveal her identity though attorney Joel P. Bennett claims she wants to contest Cain's version of events. 

Bennett said he's trying to get the National Restaurant Association, which Cain led at the time of the accusations, to release her from a confidentiality agreement so he can provide details on Thursday.

"This morning, I will be sending a statement by email to the attorney for the National Restaurant Association," Bennett said Thursday. "I will be asking them to allow us to distribute the public statement without violating the settlement agreement which contains confidentiality provisions. I will have no further statements until I hear back from the National Restaurant Association attorney."

The second woman -- first described in a Politico story which sent ripples through the Cain campaign -- is reportedly a registered lobbyist in New Jersey.

The two women left the NRA with financial settlements and an agreement to never speak of the details. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the woman now in New Jersey received $35,000 in her settlement, representing a year's salary.

Pollster Chris Wilson, who knows one of the women, told KTOK radio in Oklahoma that she was a "lower level staffer" probably two years out of college. But her experiences with Cain were witnessed by him and others attending an event at a restaurant in Crystal City, Va., right across the river from Washington, D.C.

"Everybody was aware of it," he told the radio station. "It was only a matter of time because so many people were aware of what took place, so many people were aware of her situation, the fact she left after this. Everybody knew ... with the campaign that this would eventually come up."

Wilson, who wouldn't describe the alleged confrontation because of "legal issues," said the woman wants to talk, and speculated the NRA is going to have no choice but to release her from her confidentiality agreement. 

Cain has been fighting the charges since they were first released, and while also grappling with criticism that his team has not handled the crisis well, his campaign has received more than $1 million in donations from supporters who consider the accusations a smear job aimed at taking down the new frontrunner.

Block said not only does the Perry campaign owe Cain an apology, but so does Politico.

"Politico won't release any documentation or even admit they spoke to these two women," he said. "Why? Because they have nothing and cited unnamed sources."

The arguments are being played out as two new accusers claim Cain made them feel uncomfortable during their interactions, and details emerged about the two women who left the NRA.

Earlier Wednesday, a third woman said she considered filing a workplace complaint against Cain over what she viewed as aggressive and unwanted behavior, including a private invitation to his corporate apartment.

But she said she did not file one because she began having fewer interactions with Cain. Afterward, she learned that a co-worker had already done so. She said she would have had to file if they hadn't. A talk show host in Iowa also said his receptionist felt uncomfortable in prior interaction with the candidate.