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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript


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MEADE: So I'm confused a little bit, Mr. Cain. I mean, you do sell yourself as a straight shooter, so what's with what sounded like inconsistencies? Were there inconsistencies, or no, through yesterday?

CAIN: OK, Robin -- MEADE: Yes?

CAIN: -- thank you for giving me this chance to clear the air.

This was 12 years ago. I was falsely accused. And secondly, the word "settlement" suggested to me some sort of legal settlement. And as I recalled what happened 12 years ago, I recalled an agreement. I wasn't thinking legal settlement.

And so the words have been suspect (ph), and I do recall an agreement. I recalled, as my thoughts went through the day, that there was an agreement with this lady who made these charges, and they were found to be false. I have never committed sexual harassment in my entire career, period. And it was found that nothing took place in terms of sexual harassment in this particular case.

MEADE: And you had said that all along, that they were false accusations, they were not found to be valid enough, that you were then -- that the accusations stood. But as the day went on, you seemed to recall a little bit more about the different cases.

CAIN: Yes.

MEADE: Is there anything new that, now that we're fully 24, 48 hours into this, you're remembering more about what happened, Mr. Cain?

CAIN: That is it. The best account was the one that I gave last night on another station, and the only thing that I added as the day -- remember, this was 12 years ago, and I was trying to recollect this in the middle of an already busy planned day -- a major speech in the morning, a major luncheon speech at the Press Club.

And so the only 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."

My wife is five 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.

MEADE: Now, do you know why is it, all of a sudden, that you remembered things about it yesterday? Were you informed, or were you told more about the case yesterday?

CAIN: No. I just started to remember more.

Remember, in 12 years, a lot of stuff can go through your head. This wasn't exactly something that I had top of mind where I was trying to recall every little detail that went on 12 years ago. But as the day went on, in the middle of all of the other things that we had planned -- and by the way, we did not let this distraction stop me from making all the appointments that I had made in order to get my campaign message out. MEADE: Now, at the same time, the story -- where this all started was from Politico, and it had mentioned that there were two cases, two accusations of sexual harassment.

CAIN: Yes.

MEADE: Do you remember anything now about the other case?

CAIN: Absolutely not. I wasn't even aware of the second case until we saw the Politico article. The first one I was aware of, but the second one, I have -- and I still haven't recalled. I didn't even know the second one existed, if it exists, because remember, the article said two anonymous sources.

MEADE: So you said that regarding the first one, that you do remember a little about now, but you turned the complaint over to the HR person and the general counsel, and that you didn't know what happened to the complaint. I mean, did you ever ask, hey, what's she accusing me of, or how did this turn out?

CAIN: I did, but when he said the gesture with the height thing, and there were a couple other things in there that I found absolutely ridiculous --

MEADE: What were those?

CAIN: I don't even remember. They were so ridiculous, I don't remember what they are.

MEADE: You remember they were ridiculous, but you don't remember what those other things were?

CAIN: The reason I forgot them, Robin, is because they were ridiculous. I dismissed them out of my mind.

I said, if she can make that stick and call that sexual harassment, fine. But it didn't stick. OK?'

So I don't remember what they were. The only thing I remember is that one gesture I made talking about the height.

MEADE: So do you -- did you never find out -- why did you never go back to HR to find out what their review had found?

CAIN: Because it started out as -- it started out where she was making some huge claims about sexual harassment. I do recall that she was asking for a large sum of money. I don't remember what that sum of money was, but as the review of this moved forward, that sum of money, negotiating with my attorney, negotiating with her attorney, got less and less and less, because her attorney started to figure out she didn't have a valid claim.

She couldn't find people to corroborate some of these things that she was making. And so as it got smaller and smaller and smaller, it turned out to be, from my perspective, which is why I didn't go back and ask to see it, more of a separation agreement, rather than some sort of legal settlement.

This is why the word changed from "settlement" -- because the word "settlement" was in the Politico article. I remember an agreement. And in many companies and organizations, sometimes you call them separation agreements. You don't call them separation settlements. And so this is why later the idea of the agreement did come back to memory.

MEADE: I think that for some, what's puzzling is that Politico reported that it gave your campaign, like, 10 days to come back with some reaction.

CAIN: Yes.

MEADE: And I believe we have that tape. I want to play that tape where the reporter asked if you had been accused of sexual harassment but you didn't answer. Hold on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question. Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever been accused, sir, of sexual harassment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last one, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question. Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, have you? Yes or no? Have you ever been accused, sir, of sexual harassment? Have you?

CAIN: I'm trying to --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the last question. Thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you, sir, yes or no? Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a nice day.


MEADE: I remember the first time I saw that, Herman, and I was like, oh, my gosh, he asked it back to the reporter. Why did you react that way? Did it come out of nowhere for you after Politico said that your campaign had it for 10 days?

CAIN: We had it for 10 days, Robin. We made a conscious decision with my sign-off. I'm not going to go out and start chasing two anonymous accusations, so that was a conscious decision.

We didn't know what the article was going to include, we didn't know what the accusations were going to be, so for me to even answer his question was totally inappropriate. You don't do business like that. It's similar to negotiating against yourself.

Now --

MEADE: Well, do you have -- aren't there other accusations against you that you wouldn't know what two accusations he was talking about when he said sexual harassment?

CAIN: All we know is that they contacted my office and said that they had two anonymous sources accusing me of sexual harassment. And we said, "Well, what details can you give us?" They couldn't give us any, other than it occurred when I was at the National Restaurant Association.

I immediately recalled one, and that was the one we talked about earlier. I couldn't recall the other one.

And the reason that I wasn't going to answer his question standing on the street, after I had done another interview, that could have been taken totally out of context. I wanted to be able to put it into context like I'm doing now to explain what I knew and what I didn't know, what I can now remember and what I couldn't remember, at the beginning of yesterday.

MEADE: Now, if either of these two women, one of whom you do remember, one of whom you don't remember the case, you're saying, if they were watching now, I mean, what would you say to them regarding their complaints? Because you say they were false and they were found to be false.

CAIN: I would simply say, why are you bringing it up now? Obviously, someone is encouraging them to bring it up now because I'm doing so well in this Republican nomination. That's all I would say, why are you bringing it up now?

Secondly, are you being used to try and help paint a cloud and help sabotage my candidacy? That's all I would say.

I would just simply ask a question as to why they would do that now. And you and I both know why they're doing it, because someone does not like the fact that we're doing so well in this campaign, and that I'm at or near the top of the polls consistently.

MEADE: So you feel like this is a smear campaign? From whom, do you think?

CAIN: I absolutely believe that this is an intended smear campaign using these two cases -- like I said, I'm not even aware of the second one. It is a smear campaign. When they cannot --

MEADE: By whom? Do you know by whom?

CAIN: We don't know. We have no idea.

When they cannot kill my ideas like 9-9-9, they come after me personally. And someone asked me yesterday in one of the many interviews that I did, clearing the air on this, is there anything else? Not that I know of.

I knew about that one case at the restaurant association. I've been in business -- I was in business before I ran for president over 40 years, and that was the only instance of accused sexual abuse -- sexual harassment, the only one.

And so what I'm saying is -- and then in the rest of the Politico article, which was near the end, the last two paragraphs, three people who were at the restaurant association, members of the board of directors, attested to my character and integrity. But not a lot of people are paying attention to that.

MEADE: Yes. I do want to say that that's true, that Politico article did say that most people or many that they talked to did remember your tenure fondly there, and was happy to have you there.

CAIN: Yes.

MEADE: But after what appears to be missteps in the way that you handled this yesterday, I mean, if you could do yesterday over, would you do it differently regarding the way that you answered the questions, agreements, settlements, yes, no, did know, didn't know?

CAIN: If I could do it over, Robin, I would start with the last interview I did last night and make that the first interview of the day, because after 12 hours during the day, many events, many interviews, I was able to gradually recall more and more details about what happened 12 years ago. So that's what I would do differently.

But, you know, I wasn't given the opportunity to think about it for a day before I had to start answering questions. So that's what I would do differently.

I would take the very last interview of the day and make it the first interview of the day, because in the last interview, I made it real clear. I was falsely accused and it was demonstrated to be false.

I wasn't aware of the second accusation. I have never committed to sexual harassment toward anybody. In my over 40 years, this was the only case that I know about, and if there are any others out there, they would probably have to make it up, because I am totally not aware and I'm not trying to hide anything. I'm trying to put it all out there for people to see.

MEADE: Now, the women were reportedly paid a pretty good amount settlement when they left the National Restaurant Association, so based on that, I mean, what do you think the viewers and the voters should then make about the legitimacy of the claims, how big this was to you -- I mean, if someone falsely accused me, that would be big, and I would remember, I think.

CAIN: Here's what I recall, that the settlement with the one that I remember and I'm aware of, that was a financial settlement, and it was somewhere in the vicinity of three to six months' severance pay, something of that nature, which meant that it wasn't outside the normal guidelines for employees who left. As I recall, this first lady left the restaurant association before I did.

I was only there two-and-a-half years, and the case, the accusation, didn't come up until she left the National Restaurant Association. I remember that there was a financial settlement, but it was not outside our guidelines for what people get settlement for when they leave the restaurant association involuntarily.


Now, you've been married for more than 40 years. You've been really happy and proud to say that. So, I'm wondering, what does your wife, if we may ask, have to say about all of this and these things surfacing? Was she told initially all those years ago about it?

CAIN: Yes, she was. When this happened years ago, I told my wife about it because it was found to be baseless. And the hardest part on my wife, quite frankly, is all of the innuendoes from all of the news reports that haven't been presenting the facts.

You know, the fact that, yes, the word "settlement," I said I don't recall a settlement earlier in the day. That's because I considered what happened an agreement. But because of, like I said, the detail at which every word is scrutinized, it was an agreement. And so it looked like I changed my story.

I didn't change my story. I just simply got the wording right, and the difference between "settlement" and "agreement," there is a difference to me.


Now, a lot of campaign watchers are saying, ooh, this is a misstep by his campaign. Do you have any fears about how this is going to play into your poll numbers?

CAIN: First of all, it may affect my poll numbers, but most of our supporters have not been shaken by this whatsoever. In fact, many of the people that have been in organizations that I have run -- I've been president and CEO -- have called and asked, would we like for them to do a testimonial, that this is ridiculous, because they're attesting to go my character and my integrity.

The other thing that shows that a lot of people find this just an attempt to cloud. Robin, yesterday, online, we had one of our highest fund-raising days in the campaign, one of the highest ever.


CAIN: So what it has done, I believe it has backfired on those that are trying to put a cloud over my campaign because they can't shoot down my ideas. They can criticize 9-9-9, they will criticize the energy independence strategy that we are going to unveil within the next couple of weeks, but they can't shoot down the ideas.

And here's another thing that has a lot of my critics upset. The people, the voters, the ones that matter, they like these ideas because they are specific, they're common sense, and they can understand it.

And this is what they can't defeat, because I don't give generic responses. I give direct responses, and I've had people tell me over and over and over again, as I'm speaking around the country, don't change, tell it like it is.

MEADE: All right. And Mr. Cain --


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