WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- A trade association once headed by Herman Cain paid $35,000 to a woman who accused the GOP presidential hopeful of sexual harassment, The New York Times said.
Citing three people it said had direct knowledge of the matter, the newspaper reported Tuesday the National Restaurant Association paid the woman a year's salary in severance during the late 1990s after the staff member said she was uncomfortable working for the organization following an incident involving Cain, who was NRA chief executive from 1996-99.
The payment was one of two involving women who leveled sexual harassment charges against Cain, who leads the Republican presidential field in numerous polls.
The other accuser is asking the NRA to release her from a confidentiality agreement that was part of her settlement with the association, the Times said. Her lawyer told The Washington Post she can't tell her side of the story because of the confidentiality agreement.
Lawyer Joel P. Bennett said the association should release his client and another woman who made a similar charge from the confidentiality agreements they signed, the Post reported.
"It is just frustrating that Herman Cain is going around bad-mouthing the two complainants, and my client is blocked by a confidentiality agreement," Bennett said. "The National Restaurant Association ought to release them and allow them to respond."
Cain says he recalls details of an agreement in a sexual-harassment case against him but says it was "minimal." The former pizza company executive, who is leading, national and state polls for the GOP presidential nomination, told "PBS NewsHour" Monday he recalled a financial agreement with a woman who accused him of inappropriate behavior during his 1996-99 tenure as the association president. Hours before, Cain said he was "unaware" of any sexual-harassment "settlement."
He explained the distinction the PBS News program.
"I was aware that an agreement was reached," he said. "The word 'settlement' versus the word 'agreement,' you know, 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."
Program host Judy Woodruff said PBS News was told the settlement was "five figures."
Later, in an interview with the Fox News Channel program "On the Record," Cain elaborated further, saying the restaurant association "ended up settling for what would have been a termination settlement" with a female employee who complained about Cain's behavior. He said it amounted to "maybe three months' salary."
Cain began the day Monday saying he never sexually harassed anyone and knew nothing about financial settlements. By the afternoon, he told the National Press Club in Washington the allegations had been made but said the restaurant association's review found them to have "no basis."
He called the accusations against him "a witch hunt."
When asked by "PBS NewsHour" if he ever displayed any behavior he thought might have been inappropriate, he said: "In my opinion, no. But as you would imagine, it's in the eye of the person who thinks that maybe I crossed the line."