Lawyer: Cain accusers should be allowed to talk

Joel Bennett, lawyer for one of the women who claims Herman Cain sexually harassed them, speaks to CBS News, Nov. 1, 2011. CBS News

Additional reporting by Laura Strickler and Josh Gaynor

WASHINGTON - Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain went on the offensive today against allegations that he sexually harrassed two women more than a decade ago.

CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford reports his supporters rallied to his defense, even arguing the revelations were calculated attacks motivated by race. Americans for Herman Cain the super PAC backing his campaign, said in an email to supporters "this is what the Left always does. Just like they did to Clarence Thomas, they are engaging in a 'high tech lynching' by smearing Herman Cain's reputation and character."

Herman Cain political committee invokes "high tech lynching"

But Joel Bennett, the lawyer for one of the accusers, who is a married federal employee who lives in Maryland, told CBS News today that his client is telling the truth.

"I wouldn't characterize it as an ax to grind," Bennett said. "I'm sure she feels as though she wasn't treated properly by Herman Cain."

But Bennett said said he does not remember the specific allegations, or what kind of settlement they eventually reached.

Is Cain taking scandal from bad to worse?

Cain has said he remembers one woman accusing him of harassmentand described the episode on PBS' Newshour last night.

"I reference this lady's height," Cain said. "And I was standing near her and I did this, saying 'you're the same height as my wife.'"

Bennett said Cain was talking about the case of another woman, not his client. But Bennett said now that Cain is talking about specifics, the confidentiality agreements may no longer be binding.

"I think the National Restaurant Associaion ought to waive the confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions and let the two women, if they choose to do so, come forward and tell their stories so that it can get a complete public airing," Bennett said.

The National Restaurant Association released the following statement after public remarks by attorney Joel Bennett:

"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.

Meanwhile, The New York Times is now reporting that one of Cain's accusers received $35,000 -- a year's salary -- in severance pay to leave the organization.

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    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.

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