Video: More controversies, more cash for Cain
Transcript of: More controversies, more cash for Cain
O'DONNELL: Tonight, the lawyer for one of the women accused -- who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment told " The Washington Post " that his client wants to tell her side of the story but is barred by a confidentiality agreement with the National Restaurant Association , a lobbying group where Cain served as CEO when the alleged incidents took place. Tomorrow, the woman's lawyer will formally request that the association remove the confidentiality provision from that agreement. The lawyer told "Politico" tonight, "She's a highly intelligent, educated woman who has a sense of integrity and doesn't make false claims. When we're ready to go public on this, if we ever are, we'll do it in a way that we consider appropriate like a press conference." Tonight, FOX News asked Cain whether he will call for the National Restaurant Association to waive that confidentiality agreement .
CAIN: I can't answer that now, Bret , because there are legal implications. If the restaurant association waives that, we -- I just found out about this today. There are legal implications associated with that that I'm not totally familiar with yet. So, I can't give you a definitive answer on that until we consult with our legal attorneys and also talk to, you know, some others. We can't answer that right now. It's too soon.
O'DONNELL: Oh, yes, way too soon. Of course, Cain has had almost two weeks to think about that since "Politico" started to ask him questions about this story. And he's had about 13 years to think about it since the sexual harassment charge against him was made and the confidentiality agreement was made. Today, Cain tried to explain why yesterday morning he denied knowledge of a financial settlement paid to one of his accusers before saying in the afternoon that he was, indeed, aware of such a settlement.
CAIN: As I recalled what happened 12 years ago, I recalled an agreement. I wasn't thinking legal settlement . And so, the words have been words have been flash backed, and I do recall an agreement. And I recalled as I thought, went through the day, that there was an agreement. Remember, this was 12 years ago, and I was trying to recollect this in the middle of an already busy planned day.
O'DONNELL: And Cain began the day yesterday saying he did not recall any specifics of the charges leveled against him. By the end of yesterday, Cain said he could recall only one of the charges. Today, he suggested that he might recall a couple more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever ask 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 a couple of other things in there that I found absolutely ridiculous that I -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were those?
CAIN: I don't even remember. They were so ridiculous I don't remember what they are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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 .
O'DONNELL: The Cain sexual harassment controversy has again today successfully diverted attention from a possibly more important scandal facing the Cain campaign . Cain told Laura Ingraham today that he has authorized a full investigation into whether his campaign illegally received nearly $40,000 from Prosperity USA , a Wisconsin nonprofit co- founded by Cain 's chief of staff, Mark Block , who you may remember from Cain 's recent viral campaign ad.
CAIN: I just heard about it yesterday. We are doing a full investigation of it. And if there were any improprieties, we will go back and amend the FEC report. As soon as we know what's what, Laura , we will not only issue a press release, but I will make sure that we let you know exactly what we found out and if there are any improprieties, we will correct them.
O'DONNELL: Mark Block said tonight that the two scandals have been great for business. That joyride known as the Cain presidential campaign just released a statement. It boasts that in the last 24 hours the Cain campaign has had the single best day of fund-raising since the start of the campaign . Yesterday alone, Mr. Cain received more than $400,000 in financial gifts from the supporters via online donations and other sources, said Block . A Cain super PAC e-mailed supporters today, "Patriots, they're at it again. The left is trying to destroy Herman Cain just like they did to Clarence Thomas " -- who by the way actually still is a Supreme Court justice . I don't think they can call it destroying him. "They are engaging in a high tech lynching by smearing his reputation and attacking his character. The idea of black conservative like Herman Cain as the GOP is Barack Obama and the left's worst nightmare. Will you help us by helping fund part of the 1 million phone calls we are starting ASAP in Iowa ?" Joining me now, AOL /" Huffington Post " editorial director and MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman . Also, Washington correspondent for " The Nation ," John Nichols . Thank you both for joining me tonight.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Lawrence .
O'DONNELL: Gentlemen, we do have -- we breaking news at this hour from " The New York Times ." They have just broken a story indicating that - to quote " The Times ," the National Restaurant Association gave $35,000 a year -- a year's salary in severance pay to a female staff member in the late 1990s after an encounter with Herman Cain -- the chief of staff of that lobbying organization . Howard , Herman Cain said he assumed that the settlement was something like a month or so's pay. It turns out it's a year's pay. This is the kind of thing that you can expect to come out in an unfolding controversy like this. More and more facts will be coming out. What does this add to the story?
FINEMAN: Well, what this adds to the story is first of all, it flushes out detail about one of the accusers, and there's a -- the question remains how many we're talking about here. "Politico" initially said two. Herman Cain has been confused and conflicting about his memory. My understanding from listening to what the attorney for one of the complainants said tonight is that that's not the person whose height Herman Cain supposedly joked about, so that would also indicate there's at least two. So far, I haven't heard more than two, but there are at least two. And, of course, we haven't heard from either of those accusers. And this is a classic case of an onion being peeled in exactly the kind of agonizing way that can ruin a campaign , and they may be raising a lot of money out of it at least temporarily. The bottom line is it's a disaster for Herman Cain .
O'DONNELL: Now, tonight, Charles Krauthammer asked Cain if he believes race has played a role in the way this story has emerged. Let's listen to the answer.
CAIN: Relative to the left, I believe that race is a bigger driving factor. I don't think it's a driving factor on the right. This is just based upon our speculation.
O'DONNELL: John Nichols , what did he just say?
JOHN NICHOLS, THE NATION: Well, he's spinning the now quite popular lie on the right that somehow conservatives are dramatically more racially sensitive than liberals. The fact of the matter is that polling and vote totals would suggest African-Americans seem to think differently . But the key thing here is this attempt by Cain even now to suggest that Barack Obama or progressives would have some reasons to bring this story out now. In fact, I think Barack Obama and most progressives have been very much enjoying the rise of Herman Cain as a political figure and the effect that's had on the Republican primary fight. So, really, he's trying to spin it away from an examination of who the likely source of this story is. And, of course, when you think about the fact that you've got a lobbying organization , which many Republican players move in and out of, the real likelihood here is the story did not come from some racially insensitive Democrat but from a Republican who might like to see someone other than Herman Cain be their party's nominee.
O'DONNELL: Let's listen to Cain 's answer last night to the question of whether he has a roaming eye.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Got a roaming eye at all?
CAIN: A roaming eye?
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes.
CAIN: I enjoy flowers like everyone else.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I mean .
CAIN: No. No, not at all.
VAN SUSTEREN: Not at all?
CAIN: Well, I wouldn't say not at all. It depends what you mean and the extent to what you mean.
VAN SUSTEREN: Women see sexual harassment sometimes very differently than men.
CAIN: Correct. Here's what I can tell you -- I know I never made any innuendoes with the lady that filed the complaint that we were talking about at first. None.
O'DONNELL: Howard , he could have done a little better with that answer. At first, it's not at all. What do you mean by not at all?
FINEMAN: Well, first of all, it's remarkable that FOX News anchor would ask a candidate that. Just think about that for starters. And second, the thing about Herman Cain is beginning to come into focus here, Lawrence , is on one hand he sounds kinds of confused and almost ditzy, but on the other hand , he very carefully parses his words as he tries to give these answers. You know, he said he never had any innuendo with the person he was talking about, the 5 foot tall person. That's not the person whose lawyer is coming forward now. So, he moves very carefully except every time he parses in that way, he opens the way for a revelation that will come up six, 12, or 24 hours later about what really caused him to be so careful. There's clearly -- he's acting like a guy and he's creating a situation where people doubt what he says and look for the next thing to come forward and it sounds like they're going to be a number of them even though ironically I think in the end, I don't know what we'll find about the real nature of what was said by him or done by him vis-a-vis these women. We don't know that. And the fact we don't know and the we're a few days into this means it's going to be days until we get the full story here and Herman Cain will look like a guy who is splitting hairs all the way along.
O'DONNELL: John, quickly before we go. Take us inside this Wisconsin story about Prosperity USA which is the scandal that actually could drag Herman Cain into court.
NICHOLS: Yes, let's be clear here. Unless one of these women steps forward and actually tells a very powerful story, the likelihood is the biggest scandal facing Herman Cain at this point is not the sexual harassment one, but the scandal involving how he got into his presidential campaign . His campaign coordinator or chief of staff, really campaign manager , is a guy named Mark Block . Mark Block got thrown out of politics in Wisconsin , fined $15,000, banned from running campaigns about a decade ago, after coordinating or being accused of coordinating between a campaign and a group of wealthy donors who set up an independent group to help perpetuate that campaign . Now, we see accusations of something very similar. Mark Block accused of setting up a committee that actually then laid the groundwork, perhaps illegally, for Herman Cain 's presidential cam presidential campaign .
O'DONNELL: And the $100,000 that they moved to the Congress of Racial Equality in order to get Herman Cain a speaking role there, this is a very big story that continues to mushroom. And we're going to have to pick it up again tomorrow night. MSNBC's Howard Fineman and "The Nation's" John Nichols , thank you both for joining me tonight.
FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence .
NICHOLS: Thank you.