The National Restaurant Association says it will "respond as appropriate" to any request to release one of Herman Cain's accusers from a confidentiality agreement that prevents her from speaking about a sexual harassment allegation against the GOP presidential candidate.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, the trade group said it has not been contacted by Joel Bennett, the lawyer who earlier in the day told CBS and The Washington Post that one of Cain's accusers is seeking a waiver that would allow her to speak about the case.
“We have seen media reports that attorney Joel Bennett is publicly making requests on behalf of a former National Restaurant Association employee. Mr. Bennett has not been in contact with the Association. If we are contacted by Mr. Bennett, we will respond as appropriate,” said Sue Hensley, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Communications for the National Restaurant Association.
Bennett, the woman's attorney, is calling on the National Restaurant Association to release her from a promise not to discuss the allegations or disparage the group, although he told CNN that she has not decided whether she wants to speak out. "Naturally, she's been very upset about this since the story broke last Sunday because Mr. Cain has been giving the impression she came out and made false allegations," Bennett said in a phone interview on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 program. "That's certainly not true and she's still deciding once we hear from the Restaurant Association what she'll do if they'll waive the confidentiality."
He has not seen his client, whom he identified as an employee of the federal civil service, since the case was settled 12 years ago, Bennett told CNN. He said she contacted him after the Politico story broke. Bennett also identified what he said was the newspaper's source for the story. "My understanding is a present or former board member of the National Restaurant Association leaked the story to Politico," he said. Some pundits, including former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, have theorized that the story was planted by a rival Republican presidential campaign to hurt Cain.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the other woman received $35,000 -- a year's salary -- in severence pay from the association after an encounter with Cain, as CEO, made her feel uncomfortable working there, according to three people with direct knowledge of the payment.
Cain headed the association from 1996 to 1999. A report earlier this week from Politico said that two women accused Cain of sexual harassment while he was the CEO of the trade group. Cain and his campaign have denied the allegations.