During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.
The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.
In a series of comments over the past 10 days, Cain and his campaign repeatedly declined to respond directly about whether he ever faced allegations of sexual harassment at the restaurant association. They have also declined to address questions about specific reporting confirming that there were financial settlements in two cases in which women leveled complaints.
POLITICO has confirmed the identities of the two female restaurant association employees who complained about Cain but, for privacy concerns, is not publishing their names.
Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told POLITICO the candidate indicated to campaign officials that he was “vaguely familiar” with the charges and that the restaurant association’s general counsel had resolved the matter.
The latest statement came from Cain himself. In a tense sidewalk encounter Sunday morning outside the Washington bureau of CBS News — where the Republican contender had just completed an interview on “Face the Nation” — Cain evaded a series of questions about sexual harassment allegations.
Cain said he has “had thousands of people working for me” at different businesses over the years and could not comment “until I see some facts or some concrete evidence.” His campaign staff was given the name of one woman who complained last week, and it was repeated to Cain on Sunday. He responded, “I am not going to comment on that.”
He was then asked, “Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life of harassment by a woman?”
He breathed audibly, glared at the reporter and stayed silent for several seconds. After the question was repeated three times, he responded by asking the reporter, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”
Cain was president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association from late 1996 to mid-1999. POLITICO learned of the allegations against him, and over the course of several weeks, has put together accounts of what happened by talking to a lengthy roster of former board members, current and past staff and others familiar with the workings of the trade group at the time Cain was there.
In one case, POLITICO has seen documentation describing the allegations and showing that the restaurant association formally resolved the matter. Both women received separation packages that were in the five-figure range.
On the details of Cain’s allegedly inappropriate behavior with the two women, POLITICO has a half-dozen sources shedding light on different aspects of the complaints.
The sources — which include the recollections of close associates and other documentation — describe episodes that left the women upset and offended. These incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.
Peter Kilgore, who was the association’s general counsel in the 1990s, and remains in that position today, has declined to comment to POLITICO on whether any settlements existed, saying he cannot discuss personnel matters.
But one source closely familiar with Cain’s tenure in Washington confirmed that the claims related to allegations of sexual harassment – behavior that disturbed members of the board who became aware of it, as well as the source, who otherwise liked Cain.
“I happen to know there were sealed settlements reached in the plural. I think that anybody who thinks this was a one-time, one-person transgression would be mistaken,” this source said(Politico)
Herman Cain denies sexual harassment claims
WASHINGTON – Republican candidate Herman Cain is denying a report claiming he was repeatedly accused of sexual harassment.
In a statement Sunday night, Cain’s campaign said a media report that Cain was accused of sexual harassment at least twice during his tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association isn’t true and represents unfair attacks.
Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon said the political press was “dredging up thinly sourced allegations” from Cain’s tenure leading the trade group in the 1990s. Gordon said the report includes “unsubstantiated personal attacks” and said the press is “casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts.”
Asked if Cain’s campaign was denying the report, Gordon said, “Yes.”
The allegations were first reported by the website Politico.
In its report, Politico writes that two women at the National Restaurant Association “complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, (Politico’s) sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.”
The Cain campaign denial claimed the report was produced by “Inside the Beltway media.” The statement, issued by Gordon, never directly denies the allegations.
“Since Washington establishment critics haven’t had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain’s ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can,” the statement continues.
The report and the Cain campaign’s allegation of a Washington conspiracy against him comes on the eve of a week that the surging GOP contender planned to spend in the nation’s capital. His schedule suggests he is hoping to win over some of the city’s establishment. On Monday morning, he is scheduled to speak at the American Enterprise Institute, followed by a midday speech at the National Press Club. On Wednesday, Cain is planning to meet with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Cain himself did not directly confront the allegations when confronted Sunday by Politico reporter Jonathan Martin outside the CBS Washington bureau, where Cain had just appeared on Face the Nation.
“I’m not gonna comment about two people that you won’t tell me who they are. That’s like negotiating — ,” Cain said, abruptly stopping himself mid-sentence. “I am not gonna comment on that, because you know, I think that that is one of those kinds of things that, until you look –,” he said, again stopping himself mid-sentence. After being asked several times by Martin if he has ever been accused of sexual harassment Cain ended the exchange with a question of his own: “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”
Most former board member of the National Restaurant Association told Politico they remembered his tenure there fondly, and claim he left on good terms.