Cain blames time for change in story
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain on Tuesday blamed the passage of time for his inconsistencies in recalling the details of a sexual harassment allegation made against him in the 1990s.
Herman Cain signs copies of his new book "This Is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House" at a Barnes & Noble in The Villages, Florida on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. The book is currently ranked #10 on Amazon.com's bestseller's list. According to recent national polls, Cain has jumped to top-tier status in the 2012 GOP presidential race, joining former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. (CNN / October 5, 2011)
"This was 12 years ago and I was trying to recollect this in the middle of an already busy planned day," Cain told HLN, CNN's sister network, in an interview Tuesday. "After 12 hours during the day, I was able to gradually recall more and more details about what happened 12 years ago. ... I wasn't given the opportunity to think about it for the day before starting to answer questions."
Cain, who served as head of the National Restaurant Association from 1996 and 1999, spent much of the day Monday responding to a POLITICO report alleging that two female employees at the association accused him of inappropriate behavior during his tenure.
The former Godfather's Pizza CEO again denied Tuesday ever sexually harassing anyone and assailed what he called a "smear campaign" against him. He explained his progression of interviews Monday, in which he provided more information as the day went on, as him trying to recollect the events that took place more than a decade ago.
POLITICO, which broke the story Sunday night, reported separation packages were given to two former employees at the NRA in the five-figure range.
During an appearance at the National Press Club on Monday, Cain said he was "not aware of any settlement." But later in the day, Cain changed course, saying he did not know of an "agreement."
"The word 'settlement' versus the word 'agreement.' I'm not sure what they called it. I know that there was some sort of agreement, but because it ended up being minimal, they didn't have to bring it to me," Cain said in a PBS interview Monday.
He added that his counsel and the head of human resources at the association were in charge of handling the complaint.
"So it wasn't one of those things where it got above a certain authority level and I had to sign it," Cain said. "If I did -- and I don't think I did -- I don't even remember signing it, because it was minimal in terms of what the agreement was."
On HLN Tuesday, Cain said he remembers a "separation agreement," as opposed to a "legal settlement" with one of his accusers.
Cain described the incident, when the alleged offense occurred, as a conversation between him and a female employee about her height.
"The only other thing that I could remember when I was asked about any specific things that were in the allegation, I came up with the fact that I made a gesture by putting my hand under my chin, standing near this lady, saying, 'oh, you're the same height as my wife,'" Cain said. "My wife is 5 feet tall, she comes up to my chin and I was simply making that comparison."
"We were in my office, the door was wide open and my assistant was sitting right outside," he added.
The financial settlement with the accuser "was in the vicinity of 3 to 6 months' severance pay," Cain said, adding that the payment was "not outside our guidelines for what most people get ... when they leave the Restaurant Association involuntarily."
He told HLN's Robin Meade he recalls nothing about a second alleged incident of harassment.
"Obviously, someone is encouraging them to bring it up now because I'm doing so well" in the political race, he said. "I absolutely believe that this is an intended smear campaign."
Cain said Tuesday that if could do Monday over, he would have waited to speak on the matter until Monday night when he had more time to recall the events surrounding the allegations. He also acknowledged it "looked like" he changed his story.
Cain, who has recently surged to the top of national polls, said the controversy may hurt his poll numbers, but would not affect his supporters, who he said "have not been shaken by this whatsoever."
"Yesterday [Monday] online we had one of our highest fundraising days in the campaign, one of the highest ever so what it has done, I believe, it has backfired on those who are trying to put a cloud over my campaign because they can't shoot down my ideas," Cain said.