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Herman Cain Denies Harassment Allegations

Aired November 1, 2011 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks. Good evening, everyone.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" on what could be a growing trouble for Herman Cain, the conservative Republican frontrunner. He's speaking out again tonight continuing to claim he's the victim of a smear campaign over sexual harassment allegations.

His changing account of those allegations however in hazy recall had put the story on the radar and seems to have kept it there. Late today a new twist. One of his accusers reportedly now wants to talk. She wants out of the confidentiality agreement she signed as part of her settlement with the National Restaurant Association where Herman Cain was her boss in the late '90s.

Now "The Washington Post" spoke to her lawyer -- her lawyer, a man named Joel Bennett. He says, quote, "It is just frustrating that Herman Cain is going around bad-mouthing the two complainants and my client is blocked by confidentiality agreement."

Although Bennett told "The Post" he couldn't even remember that the accused was Herman Cain. He also said he thinks the matter was settled very quickly by fax and phone. Yet this morning on HLN Herman Cain recounted to Robin Meade what sounds like a drawn-out process.


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 -- my attorney negotiating with her attorney got less and less and less because her attorneys started to figure out she didn't have a -- she didn't have a valid claim.


COOPER: Well, there are two possibilities. That Cain and Joel Bennett, the lawyer, have differing accounts of reaching a settlement with this woman or they're talking about two different women, two different complaints. Now remember, when ""Politico"" broke the story over the weekend the lead was at least two women complained of inappropriate behavior by Cain.

This could be indirect confirmation of that. Herman Cain, though, only seems to remember one complaint and one settlement, and his memory took a while to develop.


JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Have you ever been accused, sir, of harassment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last one, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question, last question.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the last question. Thanks. Thanks.

MARTIN: Have you, sir? Yes or no. Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?


COOPER: That was "Politico's" Jonathan Martin on Sunday. He simply didn't want to answer yet "Politico" says he gave the Cain organization a heads up about their story 10 days before that. Not like he was blindsided. Yesterday morning Cain denied any wrongdoing or any memory of a settlement.


CAIN: If the Restaurant Association did a settlement, I am not -- I wasn't even aware of it and I hope it wasn't for much because nothing happened. So if that was a settlement it was handled by some of the other officers that worked for me at the association so the answer is absolutely not.


COOPER: He said the same thing yesterday afternoon at the National Press Club, then a few hours after that he seemed to have changed his story.


CAIN: I was aware that an agreement was reached. 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 an agreement but because it ended up being minimal, they didn't have to bring it to me.


COOPER: Herman Cain last night. His explanation to "Newshour's" Judy Woodruff which he repeated today and this evening coming down to a question of words. An agreement which he remembered or a settlement which he didn't.

Now remember Cain has been questioned about the "Politico" story on Sunday. Most of yesterday before he figured out that when reporters were asking him about a settlement they were talking about what he refers to as an agreement. And also remember his campaign was made aware of "Politico's" story 10 days before that.

So it's true, the alleged incident happened a dozen years ago. It's also true that Cain denies any wrongdoing. He also says he only remembers one woman and one complaint. In fact he's been saying, I don't recall, again and again about a lot of aspects of the story.


CAIN: Nope, I can't recall any comment that she made, positive or negative. I don't recall by whom the charges were found baseless. I don't recall whether she left the Restaurant Association before they made the accusation.

I don't recall, Greta, I really don't. I don't remember the number. I can't recall. I don't remember her name at all. If I had a private conversation with her, I don't recall having a private conversation with her. With all of the conversations that I had it could have been but I don't recollect.


COOPER: That was Herman Cain last night on FOX. Again it was more than a dozen years ago when any of this happened, and we emphasized might, might have happened so it's perfectly understandable if he can't recall those moments.

Some were pointing to all those "I can't recalls", though as an escape hatch if more information comes to light.

We invited Cain on the program tonight. Again he declined.

Joining us now "Politico's" editor in chief, John Harris.

Thanks for being with us, John. "Politico" followed up the original reporting with information about the National Restaurant Association and its decision not to endorse Herman Cain's candidacy.

What did you learn?

JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, POLITICO: Well, there was discussion within the National Restaurant Association where Herman Cain is remembered fondly and supported by many members as to whether they should give an endorsement to their former CEO.

That revived a bunch of stories and a bunch of controversies that have been dormant for as you say, Anderson, a dozen years with some people saying, wait a minute. We are not so sure that we want to be out there on that particular limb. And --


COOPER: Because of these allegations?

HARRIS: A contributing factor -- that's correct. And that may well have been a contributing factor into why this sprang to life.

COOPER: There's been a lot of criticism of your reporting. ProPublica wrote a pretty tough article calling to question the reporting on the story, basically saying there weren't enough details in the story, specifically ones about the settlement agreements. You've reportedly seen at least some of the documents. Why not report the specifics? How much the payment amounts were for? What exactly Cain was accused of and clear up some of the speculation?

HARRIS: Well, Anderson, as you can appreciate as somebody who's reported difficult stories and for that matter the people at ProPublica who've reported difficult stories surely could also understand.

This is a hard subject to penetrate. It is not an easy story. Every single sentence in the "Politico" story was subject to elaborate reporting and a pretty extensive editing process. And we shared what we were comfortable sharing, first on the basis of, do we know it? Not do we think it, but do we know it? And then clearly within the constraint of our sourcing agreements with some very difficult reporting.

COOPER: We asked your colleague Jonathan Martin on this program last night and didn't really get an answer. I want the give you a chance to answer the same question tonight. Was "Politico" tipped off to the story by one of Cain's rival as some including Cain himself now seems to be suggesting?

HARRIS: And Jonathan was on message last night, Anderson. I'll try to stay on message. And I'll tell you why I think it's important. This is a sensitive story. We haven't been reporting on innuendo or things that we think we know and so in our public comments we've tried to stick very closely to what was in our published story and that story was -- was edited pretty extensively and we're comfortable with it. So I'm trying not to go beyond that.

I will say the question of motive to me, Anderson, is pretty secondary to the question of facts. Everybody or anybody rather who speaks to a reporter at any time on any subject presumably has some motive for doing so.

What's important is not the motive but the facts. "Politico's" two main facts in that initial story, one, that there had been complaints. Two, that those complaints had been settled or agreements reached, to use Mr. Cain's phrase. Both those things have now been validated by Mr. Cain himself as true and accurate.

COOPER: So you won't say one way or another whether or not another campaign rival to Cain or on the other side of the political aisle directed you to these allegations?

HARRIS: That's correct, Anderson. I'm going to stick in every instance to what was in the actual story.

COOPER: John Harris, I appreciate you being with us.

HARRIS: Sure thing.

COOPER: I want to turn next to our political and legal panel, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, Jeffrey Toobin,

Jeff, according to the "Washington Post," one of Cain's accusers now wants to be released from the confidentiality agreement. I don't understand, though, A, can she be released? And B, is it -- I mean, is it right for her to be released if she signed an agreement saying, I'm not going to talk about this, and I'm taking money for that? Why now should she be released?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, to answer your first question she can be released. A contract is simply an agreement between two parties. Here presumably the National Restaurant Association and this woman.

Contracts can be changed, they can be modified, if both parties agree. So to answer the question of can she, sure. Is the answer of should she? I think, frankly, the answer to that is, yes, as well.

Herman Cain is running for president of the United States. This is a very important thing about whether he committed sexual harassment or not. If this were to go to court and I expect it to be resolved long before it goes to courts, courts generally don't like confidentiality agreements. They construe them very narrowly.

They think there is a public policy often of disclosure rather than keeping things secret so it is very hard for me to imagine a set of circumstances where her story does not come out one way or another.

I don't think this agreement is going to stop her or perhaps the other woman from telling their story.

COOPER: Is it typical, Jeff, for all parties to be bound by the same confidentiality agreement in a case like this? Because if Cain is in fact bound by one, wouldn't that mean he's already violated by talking about this?

TOOBIN: Well, here it would be very important to know who signed the agreement because it may be that the Restaurant Association agreement signed it -- the Restaurant Association, some representatives signed it. But Cain didn't sign it. It would -- we'd want to know, does the agreement bind employees and former employees like Cain of the agreement. This is where things start to get -- it's really hard to know without seeing the document. But certainly, if a judge ever heard this and again I doubt it will get to that, the fact that the former president of the Restaurant Association is talking about these events, is characterizing them one way or another, most of the time would allow the other party her day to say, look, this is my view of what happened. The agreement be damned.

COOPER: Gloria, if this woman does go public, does this become a whole other issue? A whole other ball game?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is. It is a whole new ball game. Look, once you put a human face on any kind of charge like this, harassment, people are going to be able to judge her, they're going to look at her, they're going to look at her credibility. And see if they believe that she's telling the truth.

It does become a he said/she said, but she's going to provide a whole set of details that she has and people are going to have to judge those details, but it's clear to me from the interview with her attorney in "The Post" that she has a recollection of events that she wants to tell, that she believes she was harassed and that she believes her payment and money was not for severance, but it was as a settlement for her sexual harassment claims.

COOPER: David, how does this strike you? I mean, if this person, if this woman or two women signed a contract a dozen years ago, is it fair to now have these allegations come forward and not have them come forward?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, it strikes me that this story is going to continue, it has legs, and this controversy is going to deepen. And it could well almost knock him out of the race unless he now come forward and gets the facts himself. In fact, calls for the settlement to be made public.

I don't think necessarily the woman has to come forward but I do think that there's going to be a -- an intense journalistic interest in what's in the settlement. You know why, as Gloria argues, what -- you know, what -- what's the background to this settlement?

And the bumbling way which he's handled this, his shifting story, I think has increased the pressure on him to get this resolved this week in the next couple of days. Not let this linger. There are those, of course, who on the right who believe this is all a media smear, that the liberal press can't stand to have a conservative black doing so well. And they want to bring him down.

I don't think that's the case but know that that's -- that's an important element to this story, as well.

COOPER: Well, I mean, do you think there is anything to that, whether it's liberal media or whether it's people who are out to knock Herman Cain out of the race spreading this story?

I mean is this -- is this a fair thing because it's a hard allegation to fight against when it's being made by unnamed people and there's no details out there.

GERGEN: Well, Anderson, I -- so much depends upon the news organizations that's involved here. "Politico" is a fairly new news organization but it's made up of journalistic pros. These are good people who have rapidly established a very, very successful publication within the political world. A significant following because people think they're fair and they're thorough.

My impression of their reporting on this was that they went to great lengths to try to pin this down before they went public. After all, as you say, they did give the Cain campaign 10 days to prepare for this and the astonishing thing is that Cain wasn't better prepared when the story went public after those 10 days with a very complete answer that would have put it to rest very quickly.

BORGER: And --

GERGEN: If he did nothing wrong, he could have put this to rest.

BORGER: And --

COOPER: And Gloria, I'm sorry, I just got to jump in. We actually just got a phone call from Joel Bennett, the attorney for one of Cain's accusers. So I just want to bring Mr. Bennett into the conversation.

Thanks very much for being with us. Have you approached the Restaurant Association about the possibility of getting this -- getting this confidentiality agreement overturned?

Mr. Bennett, are you there?

Yes, I'm here. I'm sorry. Go ahead.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us. Have you -- have you approached the Restaurant Association or been asked by your client or your former client to approach the Restaurant Association about getting this confidentiality agreement overturned?

JOEL BENNETT, ATTORNEY FOR CAIN ACCUSER: Not yet because I had closed my file and had disposed of the agreement. I'm getting it from my client. I hope to get it today or tomorrow. Once I do that with my client's consent I will do that.

COOPER: Has your client asked you, in fact, at this point to do that?

BENNETT: She's still mulling over what she wants to do about this. She's naturally concerned about all the publicity and -- that's coming up 12 years after the fact.

COOPER: Jeff, if you want to ask a question, I think I heard you --

TOOBIN: Can I just ask a question of Mr. Bennett?

Mr. Bennett, is Herman Cain a signatory? Did he sign this agreement or did Richard -- did just the Restaurant Association sign it?

BENNETT: I haven't seen it in 12 years but I do not have the recollection of Mr. Cain signing it.

COOPER: So this was something that was handled by the Restaurant Association?

TOOBIN: Do you believe he is bound by it? Is he bound by it? Or is he simply just a spectator, he has nothing to do with it?

BENNETT: Well, he was the CEO at the time and he certainly would have been bound by it while he was the CEO of the National Restaurant Association. I have to see the agreement to see what impact it has on employees after they leave the Restaurant Association.

GERGEN: Can I ask something, Anderson?

COOPER: Go ahead, David.

GERGEN: Yes, Mr. Bennett, this is David Gergen. "The Washington Post" and "New York Times" are both reporting that she wants the story out. She wants an opportunity to have her side told and you just said she's still mulling, and I'm not quite sure what she is mulling.

BENNETT: Well, she -- naturally, she's been very upset about all this since the story broke last Sunday because Mr. Cain has been giving the impression that she's someone who came out and made false allegations and that's certainly not true. And she's still deciding once we hear from the Restaurant Association what she'll do if they'll waive the confidentiality. Until they do that, she's not going to speak out.

BORGER: Mister --

GERGEN: And was she -- was she released? Did she leave the National Restaurant Association because she made these allegations? Was the separation based on this or did they accuse her of -- or say she was not a good employee for other grounds? What was the basis on which she left?

BENNETT: To the best of my recollection, there were no complaints about her performance. She was ready to move on to another position in light of the way she had been treated by Mr. Cain.


BENNETT: And she was happy to leave with the confidentiality settlement agreement.

BORGER: Mr. Bennett, it's Gloria Borger here. If I could just ask this, you've spoken with your client. Does she believe that Mr. Cain is not telling the truth?


BORGER: Can you elaborate?

TOOBIN: How so?

BENNETT: First of all --

TOOBIN: Yes, can you elaborate?

BENNETT: -- it's a little difficult because there were two women who filed complaints at this time and it's unclear which one he's speaking about all the time, but to the extent that he's made statements that he never sexual harassed anyone and there was no validity to these complaints, that's certainly not true with respect to my client's complaints.

COOPER: Did you -- I'm sorry. Did you represent both women?

BENNETT: I only represented one woman.

COOPER: And --

BENNETT: Not both.

COOPER: And have you been --

TOOBIN: Mr. Bennett, does she --

COOPER: I'm sorry. Have you been --

TOOBIN: Does she have any --

COOPER: Go ahead, Jeff. No, go ahead, Jeff.

TOOBIN: What -- does she have any corroborating evidence? Does she have e-mails, photographs, notes, anything other than her word about what Mr. Cain did to her or -- she accused him of doing?

BENNETT: I have no recollection 12 years later of what the proof was in these situations. Usually it's a one-on-one situation. But I'm not certain what the circumstances were at that time without going back and talking to my client again.

COOPER: Mr. Bennett, have you been hearing some of the things that Herman Cain has been saying? And I know your recollection is perhaps not as sharp as you would like it to be based on being 12 years but based on what you have heard Mr. Cain saying, is it your understanding, your belief, that he is not -- not telling the truth?

BENNETT: My -- what I have heard him say on the media is that he never sexually harassed anyone and that there was no validity to these claims, and my client made a good faith, honest complaint of sexual harassment.

GERGEN: Could you give us any details about what the nature of that sexual harassment were -- was?

BENNETT: I'd be happy to if the National Restaurant Association waives the confidentiality provision of the settlement agreement but I have not --

GERGEN: But you're -- you are persuaded --


GERGEN: You are persuaded it was --

BENNETT: They have refused to speak to the media and they say it's a personnel matter.

GERGEN: But you are persuaded it was sexual harassment? BENNETT: I am persuaded that my client made a good faith, honest complaint of sexual harassment. I was not there. I didn't see what happened between these two people but I know her very well and I'm sure she would not make a false complaint.

BORGER: Do you recall -- you know, Mr. Cain says that he was told by the general counsel, people who were doing this investigation, that while he recused himself he was told in the end that they believed that there was absolutely no basis for the claim and that essentially -- was that your understanding of the result of their investigation?

BENNETT: To the best of my recollection, I was never told about any investigation at that time but I would say an investigation done by people under Herman Cain's supervision who's livelihood depended on him would not be the appropriate independent outside objective people to do such an investigation.

I have been hired to do investigations of sexual harassment by companies or nonprofit organizations, and if you're serious about doing such an investigation you don't have it done by employees under the thumb of the alleged harasser.

COOPER: Was it --

BORGER: But do you -- go ahead.

COOPER: How -- do you recall how involved Herman Cain was in the settlement process, in the discussions of this?

BENNETT: To the best of my recollection, I never had any contact with Herman Cain.

COOPER: Also, is your client the woman that Herman Cain was referencing when he told the story about comparing the height of the person to the height of his wife?

BENNETT: I haven't seen my client in some years but to the best of my recollection she's taller than five feet tall.

BORGER: Was it your understanding that her payment was severance?

TOOBIN: Mr. Bennett?

BORGER: Was a severance payment or a settlement payment?

BENNETT: It was a settlement agreement of a sexual harassment complaint with a confidentiality provision and a non-disparagement provision.

GERGEN: So in other words, from your point of view, the settlement --

TOOBIN: Mr. Bennett, do you -- COOPER: Go, David.

GERGEN: In other words, your -- the settlement agreement was in effect compensation from the National Restaurant Association for -- with a sense that somehow she had been wronged and they were paying her and also asking her --


BENNETT: A settlement agreement is never an admission of wrongdoing.

GERGEN: Right. But it is -- what is it then?

BENNETT: Settlement agreement is an agreement between two parties to resolve a complaint, with no admission of wrongdoing.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin?

TOOBIN: Yes, Mr. Bennett, has your client ever made other sexual harassment allegations against other employers?

BENNETT: Not to my knowledge.

BORGER: So did your client contact you because she'd been watching Mr. Cain and he got her upset? BENNETT: I believe she contacted me when the "Politico" story first broke.

COOPER: So she -- so you're saying she wasn't contacted directly by "Politico"? She read the story or when she heard --


BENNETT: I honestly don't know how that happened. My understanding is a present or former board member of the National Restaurant Association leaked the story to "Politico".

GERGEN: A member of --

COOPER: I'm sorry. You said --

GERGEN: Would you repeat that?

COOPER: You said that's your understanding. How do you have that understanding? Where did you hear that?

BENNETT: I don't recall how I heard that but that's my understanding of how the story originally got on "Politico".

GERGEN: Was it in any sense from your point of view a smear effort against him?

BENNETT: I'm not in the position to judge that as I've stated previously. My client's allegations were made in good faith based upon actual events. GERGEN: Mr. Bennett, if you --

BORGER: Can you -- and you can't --

TOOBIN: Does your client have any political affiliation? Is she -- is she part of the Obama administration? Is she an active politically and Democrat, Republican, anything like that?

BENNETT: I have no knowledge that she's active politically. She's a current employee of the federal government and under the Hatch Act she is not permitted to engage in active -- political activities as a --

GERGEN: Mr. Bennett, you --

TOOBIN: She's not a political appointee to the --



TOOBIN: She is not a political appointee.

BENNETT: She's not a political appointee.

TOOBIN: She's a civil servant.

BENNETT: Career civil servant.

GERGEN: Sir, do you -- you have said you've asked the National Restaurant Association to release her from confidentiality agreement. If they refuse, what do you think your next steps might be?

BENNETT: OK. I have not had any direct contact with the National Restaurant Association. In the interviews I've given, I have suggested that would be the right thing to do so that she can tell her side of the story since Mr. Cain is telling his side of the story, and if they -- if they agree to that then I will confer with my client again and see what she wants to do. Ultimately it's up to her.

GERGEN: And if they don't -- what if they don't agree?

BENNETT: I don't know that we'll do anything further then.

COOPER: And Mr. Bennett, you anticipate by tomorrow your client making a decision about whether or not she wants to contact the National Restaurant Association to ask them to remove the confidentiality?

BENNETT: In the next day or two.

COOPER: In the next day or two.

BENNETT: Tomorrow or the day after.

COOPER: Mr. Bennett, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much. We'll continue to follow it and would like to talk you when a decision is made. Thank you, sir.

BENNETT: Thank you. You're welcome.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, what do you make of this?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, I think the National Restaurant Association is going to have a very tough and interesting decision to make. Obviously, I mean, I think we are clearly heading in a direction that they're going to be asked to waive the confidentiality here.

I -- you know, usually these organizations want to stay out of the news. They don't want to be involved. Here I think that train has left the station and I think Herman Cain has got to speak out about whether he wants the Restaurant Association to waive confidentiality but my sense is just having followed these for a long time this woman's going to get her story out sooner rather than later. I don't know exactly how it's going to work but if this woman feels like Herman Cain has been lying about her we're going to know that.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Gloria, it's interesting to hear him say that it's his understanding that this story was leaked by someone --

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: -- from the National Restaurant Association. We don't know if that's true. He didn't know the source of where he had even heard that, he said. But it also, when we talked to the gentleman from "Politico" right before this he had mentioned some conversations and dissension within the National Restaurant Association when it was under consideration about whether or not they should -- they should endorse the candidacy of Herman Cain.

BORGER: And you know, he also implied that that could have been the time when this was all dredged up. But we don't know -- no matter who leaked it we don't know whether it was politically motivated or not, and the attorney here could not -- you know, could not answer that question but what he did make very clear was that if his client does speak one way or the other as Jeff Toobin said, if his client does speak, she's clearly going to say that Herman Cain is lying.


BORGER: And that her recollection is very different from his and that she was paid money as part of a sexual harassment claim that had some validity.

COOPER: David Gergen, Gloria Borger, Jeff Toobin, thank you very much. We'll continue to follow it.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.

Up next, the explosive allegations this story is a racial attack on Herman Cain from the left because he's an influential African- American conservative. Hear how Herman Cain himself sees it as well as Roland Martin and African-American conservative Ken Blackwell.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Breaking news tonight. A moment ago you heard the lawyer for one of Herman Cain's accusers say his client does not believe Mr. Cain is telling the truth. He says she wants to be released from the confidentiality agreement or rather she's considering whether or not she wants to ask the National Restaurant Association to release her from the confidentiality agreement. A decision on that may be within the next day or two.

More now on the "Politico" story that started all this. Set off a firestorm of speculation of who tipped off. You just heard the attorney saying he believes it came from someone on the National Restaurant Association or affiliated with it.

You heard John Harris talk very briefly about it without revealing very much. There's been plenty of buzz on the right. This is a left-wing hit job and some on both sides that one of Cain's Republican opponents may be behind the story.

The most incendiary charge of all is race in comparison to the sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas 20 years ago. What he famously called the high-tech lynching.

Tonight on Fox, Herman Cain was asked if history is repeating itself and just as importantly whether he had any evidence it was.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Clarence Thomas was near to achieving the position of high authority, he was hit with a sexual harassment charge. You've contending for the presidency, the office of highest authority, leading in the polls, Republican nomination, all of a sudden get hit with a sexual harassment charge.

Do you think that race being a strong black conservative has anything to do with the fact that you've been so charged? And if so, do you have any evidence to support that?

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the answer is, yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it. But because I am an unconventional candidate, running an unconventional campaign, and achieving some unexpected unconventional results in terms of my -- the poll, we believe that.

Yes, there are some people who are Democrats, liberals, who do not want to see me win the nomination and there could be some people on the right who don't want to see me because I'm not the quote/unquote "establishment candidate." No evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: That was Herman Cain. Tonight, joining us now is Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and we should mention Rick Perry supporter and also political analyst, Roland Martin.

Roland, you say unequivocally that what is happening to Cain is not what some said was a high-tech lynching. You even tweeted out a picture of an actual lynching to make your point. What is your point? What is your position?

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the point is very simple and that is when you see Herman Cain singing "Amazing Grace" at the National Press Club, he's not being lynched. The way you think of a lynching. That is real. That's actually black men being hung from trees, burned, charred remains, some of them in their actual military uniforms and so it is ridiculous.

It is also nonsense to say, this is happening because I'm black, but then, of course, I have no evidence to actually prove it. You're running for president. This is what happens when you run for president. Everything in your past comes under scrutiny, everything.

COOPER: You don't believe race plays a role in this at all?

MARTIN: No. No one can try to show, I think this is happening because Herman Cain is black. No, you are running for president. If Herman Cain had 2 percent in the polls, it wouldn't matter.

But guess what, when you are leading, this is what happens when you're leading. Ask Gary Hart, ask John Kerry. Ask any Democrat or Republican who's been in this position. Mitt Romney, illegal immigrants at the house, it happens.

COOPER: Ken, do you agree? Do you agree that race is playing a role in this?

KEN BLACKWELL, SENIOR FELLOW, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: No. Look, I think his conservatism is playing a role in it. In the public arena, people use hyperbole, they use over the top language on the right and the left. Look. The truth loves sunlight and what we need to do is to put more sunlight on this.

Right now, as we are talking tonight, in terms of public evidence there is not substantial evidence to support a finding of sexual harassment. But neither would I want to sit here tonight and make little of the whole notion of sexual harassment in the workplace. That is very aggressive behavior. It is not just flirtation.

COOPER: Right.

BLACKWELL: It is not just suggestive language. It is aggressive behavior. We need to get to the bottom of this and we need to get to the bottom of this soon.

COOPER: Do you believe -- BLACKWELL: From the Cain's campaign standpoint, they have mishandled this situation. You have to gather your facts, tell the truth and you got to tell it quickly and I think you do it once just like Geraldine Ferraro did with her husband's situation.

COOPER: Ken, do you believe that the restaurant association should lift the confidentiality agreement if asked by this accuser?

BLACKWELL: I think that there's probably another alternative. I think the accuser probably has enough folks to donate. She could give back whatever the money settlement was and then probably has a way to walk through the door and say what she wants to say.

Look. I'm for making sure that light gets shined on this, on a factual basis and we close the door on this chapter based on what the facts are.

MARTIN: Anderson?

COOPER: Yes, Roland.

MARTIN: There's a distinction that must be made here. This is not a case we're hearing about somebody who said 12 years ago something happened. This was a case where clearly there was some type of investigation. There was a settlement. Papers were signed and so something -- so, we can't say what took place.

My point is, there's a difference between just some allegations out there that had no basis versus there being some level of conversation, some agreement being signed. That's a different standard here.

Ken is absolutely right in terms of what the facts are. Cain has made a serious mistake by being unequivocal in stating there was no settlement, but then backtracking hours later.

When you run for president every campaign knows you tell them all of your stuff so they don't hear about this stuff later on. They have badly mishandled this and can't blame anybody else and not his skin color for how they have bungled this situation.

COOPER: It's an interesting discussion --

BLACKWELL: Let me just say, Anderson, you know, I'm critical of my friends on the left who play the race card. I don't think my friends on the right should play the race card.

At the end of the day, what we have right now in terms of public evidence is he said/she said without a public supported evidence of sexual harassment. Is there evidence what's been said by Herman as well as unidentified sources in terms of flirtation or language that was untoward and unwanted

Perhaps, but that's not sexual harassment. We cannot trivialize it and I think we both -- meaning me and brother Martin, we want to get at the truth and we don't want -- MARTIN: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: -- anybody to hide behind racism.

MARTIN: That's right. No race sideshow.

COOPER: Ken Blackwell, appreciate you being on the program tonight. It's good to have your voice and Roland Martin as well. Thank you both.

Just ahead, more fallout of the investigation into "Fast and Furious." We have been covering it for a while now, the botched operation to let guns go in the hands of mention call drug cartels. New information about how that disaster could have been prevented.

And bracing for the worst, an airliner taking off from the U.S makes an emergency landing today. What a landing. We have the latest on how the passengers are doing and we will show you the landing. No landing gear at all. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Let's get caught up on other stories we're following. Susan Hendricks has the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the FBI and federal prosecutors are joining the investigation into the failure of a financial firm led by former New Jersey Governor John Corzine. MF Global filed for bankruptcy yesterday. Sources close to the case say the company is unable to account for $600 million in customer's money.

Greece's prime minister stunning the world by calling a national referendum vote on a bailout package. A no-vote on the deal could potentially cause the euro to crash. Word of the referendum sent global stock markets tumbling.

Word tonight, the Syrian government agreed to an Arab League broker plan to end the violence against protesters. The United Nations reports more than 3,000 people died since the unrest started in March and official announcement of what is in the deal is expected by tomorrow.

And you have to see this. All 231 people on board a Lot Polish airline jet, this one, are safe. They're unhurt after this emergency landing. It happened in Warsaw today. The flight took off from Newark Airport in New Jersey. A hydraulic problem prevented the landing gear from deploying instead the plane skidded to a stop. Again, everyone is OK.

COOPER: Wow, amazing landing. Thanks, Susan.

Still ahead, more fallout from the investigation to "Fast and Furious," the botched operation letting guns from the United States go in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. New information about how that disaster could have been prevented. Also the jury in the Michael Jackson death trial will not hear from Dr. Conrad Murray. The defendant tells the judge he will not take the stand. Details coming up.


COOPER: Keeping them honest follow up. Now there's new information tonight on what the Justice Department knew about a controversial tactic of letting guns get in to the hands of drug cartels in Mexico and other criminals.

There wasn't just "Operation Fast and Furious." It turns out even earlier there was "Operation Wide Receiver." Newly-released documents revealed the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division learn about that previous ATF operation as early as April of last year.

He only recently brought it to the attention of Attorney General Eric Holder. Lanny Breuer testified on Capitol Hill today.


LANNY BREUER, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CRIMINAL DIVISION: I was involved in this exercise and it came to light in thinking about it realized that I should have back in April 2010 drawn that connection. I've expressed that regret first personally to the attorney general of the United States and then I determined that I should do it publicly, as well.


COOPER: Breuer says he simply didn't draw a connection between the two gun programs. Of course, the programs that gained the most attention is "Fast and Furious," which ran from late 2009 to early this year.

It's where weapons sold in the U.S. were allowed to fall in to the hands of Mexican drug cartels in the hope of tracking them to their most violent members. It didn't work that way at all. Thousands of guns were lost and two of those missing weapons were found at the scene when U.S. border agent Brian Terry was murdered last December.

Drew Griffin joins me now to talk about today new developments. Drew, so this program that actually started under the Bush administration "Operation Wide Receiver," what do we know about it?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, another document dumped from the Justice Department under pressure from Congress is how we know about it and this is what we know. In 2006, 2007, they had this program that was to allow guns to be loosed in to Mexico in the hopes of tracking them without any ability to track them, Anderson.

That's what's key here. The 350 of these guns are let loose. Now Lanny Breuer is up -- so what did they do, Anderson? They sweep it under the rug. They try to hide that program, that dumb program, and then they start another even bigger program that does the same thing under "Fast and Furious."

That has members of Congress furious. Lanny Breuer is up on Capitol Hill today trying to explain that he knew about the first program in 2009 that let guns walk in to Mexico. Then knew about the second program in 2010, "Fast and Furious" that let guns walk in to Mexico.

But didn't put the two together and then didn't alert the Attorney General Eric Holder. Here's his explanation.


BREUER: I regret that at that point that I knowing then, knowing now what -- knowing now I wish at that at that time I said to the deputy attorney general and the attorney general that in this case "Wide Receiver" we had determined in 2006 and 2007 guns had walked. I did not do that and I regret not doing that.


GRIFFIN: Sure does, Anderson. He certainly regrets it now.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it's incredible to think that a program that has the potential to be this danger be allowed to happen not only once, but twice and under two different administrations.

And for those not following, Drew, and you're reporting for a long time now, no one informed Mexico that these guns were coming and so there was no way for anybody to actually track the guns once they were in Mexico.

GRIFFIN: You know, there's a lot of politics involved. Republicans are pressing the quote/unquote "Democratic Justice Department" now to see who knew what, when and where. But the question we have asked on your program, Anderson, and nobody's got answers to is who thought this was a good idea?

It was failed from the start. Now we know that it appears that both of the operations one in 2006, one in 2007 and the other one in 2009, neither one had the ability to do what it was set up to do, which was to try to track these guns once they were in Mexico.

So somewhere along the line professional law enforcement officers within the ATF or somewhere, somebody in charge of these operations laid out a completely failed program from the get-go.

It put a lot of people in danger and but for Brian Terry's death, we probably would have never known about it.

COOPER: It's so tragic. Border agent is dead. Drew, appreciate it. Thanks.

Up next, Dr. Conrad Murray deciding he will not take the stand in the Michael Jackson death trial. We'll take you there. And we'll tell you about Bank of America's decision on the debit card fees. A lot of folks are furious about.

And Lisa Vanderpump of "Real Housewives, Beverly Hills" steps up to the mike. She can belt out a tune putting the skeptics on our "Ridiculist."


COOPER: Checking with Susan Hendricks, an update on the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

HENDRICKS: Anderson, both sides rested in the Michael Jackson death trial. Dr. Conrad Murray told the judge today that he would not be taking the stand in his own defense. Closing arguments are set to begin on Thursday.

A transcript shows that lawyers for Casey Anthony invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination 60 times during a recent deposition in a civil lawsuit. Casey Anthony as you know is accused of ruining the reputation of Zaneida Gonzalez.

Anthony initially told investigators that a babysitter with that name kidnapped her daughter, Caylee, in July. Casey Anthony was acquitted of Caylee's murder.

Some good news for those who complained, a lot of you did, Bank of America is dropping plans for a monthly $5 debit card fee after getting a whole lot of complaints from customers like you. Chase, Sun Trust and other banks are getting rid of similar plans.

And this may not have the charm of your local butcher, but this vending machine offers carnivores some convenience. It dispenses fresh cuts of meat just like soda or candy minus the shell life, right. It is the brainstorm of an Alabama company. So far they have installed one machine. See how it goes.

COOPER: Interesting.

All right, now time for the "Beat 360 winners." Our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to come up with a caption for a photo that we put on the blog that's better than the caption our staffers can come up with.

Tonight's photo, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul in Iowa today. The congressman speaking at a forum of manufacturing. Staff winner tonight is Cubie. Cubie. Constitutionally, I shouldn't even be sitting on this chair or wearing clothing right now.

Your winner is Mark from undisclosed location. His caption, desperate to narrow the field, Republican Party leaders are forced to use rock, paper, scissors to choose a candidate.

Up next tonight, music to real housewife fan's ears? Beverly Hills cast member, Lisa Vanderpump just released a single and not so bad. You can hear it for yourself. That's right, housewife haters. Turn up the volume or you may end up on our "Ridiculist."


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, we're adding all you real housewives skeptics out there who have proven wrong by one Lisa Vanderpump of Beverly Hills. Like many of you, I've been known to roll my eyes at the so-called housewives, so-called musical talent.

Several of them have released songs over the years, over the past couple of years, proving time after time that there's a fine line between actual music and an audio tuned dry heaving.

But today and I'm serious when I say this, we heard a song completely different. First, it was an actual song. Second, it sung pretty well. Listen now to a clip of Lisa Vanderpump's cover of the classic "Will You Love Me Tomorrow."

OK, pretty good. Not bad. I like the sort of reggae beat in the background. Lisa says it was Lionel Richie's idea. I should say I'm biased. I should like Lisa. I've actually met her. She has a sense of humor about herself.

I like her dog, who by the way, really deserves a spinoff. The same can be said for a certain singing countess, though. I've said it before. I'll say it again. Anybody uses the word class not referring to a room in which kids are learning has none.

The was Countess Lou Ann from the Real Housewives of New York. A countess of what you asked, good question. Apparently, she's countess of not sparing us from another one of her songs.

It's quite an introspective chorus, wouldn't you say? There was a hideous stunt that was apparently a song. She would love to have her name played or a clip. I cannot bring myself to do it.

I'm sorry. There was also a one-time New York househusband trying to get in on the act. Simon Van-something. Brace yourself. So real. What happened to shame? You know?

Was shame such a big thing? People have none of it anymore. It started with Kim from Atlanta who I must say I also have a soft spot for.

Kim, I'll be tardy for your party. As for Lisa, congratulations on the new song. I think it sounds great and I expect thanks to you the real housewives skeptics are now singing a different tune on "The Ridiculist."

That's it for our "360." We'll see you again tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN" starts now.