Electric fence remark was a joke, Cain says
October 16th, 2011
03:53 PM ET
8 years ago

Electric fence remark was a joke, Cain says

Washington (CNN) - GOP presidential contender Herman Cain walked back comments Sunday that he made a day earlier when he called for a deadly electric fence on the United States-Mexico border.

"That's a joke," Cain said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor. That was a joke, OK."

Programming note: GOP presidential candidates next face off at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, October 18, in the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada. Submit your questions for the debate here.

Cain made the fence comments Saturday at a Tennessee rally while kicking off his bus tour to promote his "9-9-9" tax plan.

Speaking to the crowd, Cain recalled a conversation he had on his conservative radio talk show with a caller who argued against building a fence to prevent illegal immigration.

But Cain said he fought back, telling the caller:

"When I'm in charge of the fence, we going to have a fence. It's going to be 20 feet high. It's going to have barbed wire on the top. It's going to be electrocuted, electrified," Cain said. "And there's going to be a sign on the other side that says it will kill you."

Cain, who's surged to the top of the Republican presidential field to join fellow front-runner Mitt Romney, said he was only kidding about the remark.

"That's not a serious plan," Cain said Sunday.

Cain's comment Sunday comes one day before he's set to meet with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the high-profile Arizona law enforcement officer known for cracking down on illegal immigration. According to the sheriff's office, Monday will mark the second meeting for Cain and Arpaio in the last three months.

"I’m anxious to hear Herman Cain’s position on a variety of issues, directly from him and not through the prism of media interpretation,” Arpaio said in a statement.

In the interview Sunday, Cain went on to explain his immigration plan, which includes securing the border using a physical fence, new technology and, if needed, troops on the ground. He also argued for stronger enforcement of laws already in place and called for a tighter bureaucracy.

–CNN's Steve Brusk contributed to this report.

Also see:

Axelrod strikes Romney, says Perry could bounce back

Gingrich: Cain has strong shot at nomination

Bachmann raises almost $4 million, but spends nearly $6 million

McCain to Perry: Get some rest


Filed under: 2012 • Herman Cain • Immigration
soundoff (231 Responses)
  1. maf

    Seriously??? Again, this "walking back" of comments, this time from Cain. Do people in the public eye even think about what they say before they say it anymore? Doesn't appear so! This one is pretty pathetic though.

    October 16, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. Ramesh Shrestha

    Dude, you have the right to tell whaterver the jokes you wanna tell, and I reserve the right to interpret those jokes in whatever the way I want and translate my interpretation into my vote. And believe me, many Americans are feeling the same way. You can be as much xenophobic as you want and I will be a vocal advocate against your policies to the best of my capacity.

    October 16, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    A presidential candidate "joking" about using deadly force? That's not a sense of humor, Herb; that's pandering to the radical right and then not having the stones to admit it. Either that or you truly believe we should kill people to keep them from entering our country illegally.

    BTW, I'd like to see an investigation into whether Godfather's Pizza has ever hired illegals ... I'm guessing they have, making Herb just another typical Republican hypocrite.

    October 16, 2011 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  4. normajean

    Seriously!!!!!....what do we know about this man and his projections for the presidency???? "9 9 9 " which has been minimally explained but NOT as being an advantage in the tax area!!! Other than that, we know nothing except that he has absolutely NO experience in the political arena. There are rumblings that he intends to end Social Security and Medicare, which is enough to stop any definitive thinking in his direction. So far, this is all that has been available to us!!
    !!How can the Tea Partiers get so up on him when they don't have anything to go on????Once again it just proves that they have no basis for most of their pronouncements!!! If we don't get some solid info on Mr.. Cain soon, I expect him to fade into the sunset very shortly!!!!!

    October 16, 2011 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. Kv

    It sickens me that Cain had no choice but to back down on the fence comment when the bleeding heart, lefty press tried to bait him into saying was willing to kill Mexicans who casually violate our laws, hold Americans in open contempt, but yet expect those same Americans to support them and their ever-expanding families. It simply is politically incorrect in this country to refer to ANY minority person or group as anything other than a poor, misunderstood, downtrodden victim of America, who deserves lavish reparations with no questions asked. Sickening.

    The US press is as effective at stifling free speech and free thought as any totalitarian regime in the world.

    October 16, 2011 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  6. hondabear

    we dont need a President w/ a sense of humor,we need one that knows what the HELL they are doing!!!! if we wanted someone to laugh @ , we would have voted for sarah palin!!!

    October 16, 2011 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  7. REG in AZ

    Possibly Cain was joking with "9, 9, 9" too. Consider someone retired living on entitlements and consider a “working poor” individual, both living check to check, trying to make ends meet. Now take an additional 18% (9% Fed Sales Tax and 9% Fed Income Tax) out of their budget – how can they ever survive?

    “9, 9, 9” is just another con aimed to greatly benefit the few. In actuality it would add millions to the ranks of the poor, devastate consumer spending, drastically negatively impact the economy and penalize the middle class, all while making the wealthy wealthier. It is a devil’s proposal that should be garbaged right next to privatizing Social Security (which would have been the antecedent to doing away with Social Security by ultimately rolling the private accounts into 401ks). The deception behind these extreme proposals is disgusting and actually even criminal as they are intended to benefit only the very few and are offered without any conscience for the impact on the majority. To give them any credit is ridiculous and actually scary.

    October 16, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. frank hernandez

    Cain is as dumb as he looks.
    NO ONE, NO ONE who is in a position of running for the President of the U.S. says something as STUPID as what he says.

    Worst...he then lies and says it was a "joke". I see NOTHING funny in this.

    October 16, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. donald

    I am tired that everything he says, then becomes " it was a joke," it just proves he is a joke

    October 16, 2011 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  10. Christina Caldwell

    He shouldn't have backed down on that and said it was a joke. Big mistake. The fence idea is actually a very good one. This shows he doesn't have the courage to stand by anything. I saw the video, he looked serious. If he was being sarcastic, he should have mentioned that at the time. He speaks too fluent of sarcasm for me to feel there was anything sarcastic about what he said... he's showing himself to be a coward. I'm disappointed.

    October 16, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  11. Kenny K

    I hope he wins republican nomination.

    Herman Cain is so special to the republican party that none of other candidates bother to disect his past. That will be different when he faces democrat.

    If you notice, Obama people are going after Perry and Romney hoping that someone else like Cain could be nominated.

    October 16, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  12. Mig

    "Herb" Cain's time on his high horse will soon buck him off... No worries people, he'll soon be replaced by another extreme and tasteless flavor...

    October 16, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. T'sah from Virginia

    Is something wrong with Cain? Is he “joking” in this statement too? Cain LOVES telling JOKES and the more he talks about 9-9-9, that’s a joke too. When are we going to know when he is serious??

    On “Meet the Press” today, he told another joke. David asked him about a statement he said in TN regarding what he would do to control immigration Cain stated in TN that he would “… build an electrifying fence on the border that would kill people if they tried to cross it…” He told David that it was a JOKE. A joke? He said that the American people need to have a sense of humor!!! WTH? We’re suppose to “laugh” at him when he is addressing the country???

    Maybe Cain should apply for a job on SNL instead of asking the American people to vote for him to be the leader of our nation!!

    Obama 2012!!

    October 16, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  14. BK

    To be fair, he said it would have a sign that says it will kill you, not that it'd actually kill you 😛 Sounds reasonable to me!
    Bwaha.

    October 16, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. Obama is a boob

    Mr. Cain needs to learn that humor from republicans is NOT tolerated.

    October 16, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  16. GI Joe

    HE is the joke.

    October 16, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  17. jean2009

    GW Bush treated the whole presidency as a joke...look where that got us.

    October 16, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  18. Leonard from Arizona

    The problem with these off-the-cuff remarks that have become common place with Herman Cain is they indicate poor diplomacy skills - which are requisite for the presidency. Similar "joking" comments could place the entire nation in a great deal of trouble if they were directed to an international leader (in person or indirectly) if Herman Cain were to be elected President, and he said them while acting in official capacity. In this age of instant communication, he couldn't retract his "intent" with "I was just joking" or "get a life." Wars have been started over less.

    October 16, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  19. John

    What everything this man say that bad ,he going to come back and say it a JOKE. Herman Cain you are the Joke. Because there no humor It that at all. The more this man talk the worse he sound. He 9-9-9- plan Is a Joke To.

    October 16, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  20. CA Dream USA

    So is America ever electing another republican for President...Wow..L.M.A.O

    October 16, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  21. lynn

    the jokes in your hand

    October 16, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  22. Tony 140

    Yes I think that an electric fence is a JOKE. We've got a war and invasion going on at the border and an electric fence is not enough. If the elitists don't think so – let them spend a few months at those ranchers' homes. We need to treat this as a war – the other side sure is. As soon as the first American was killed on this side of the border- we should have deployed the troops, the tanks, the airplanes and the drones. As a retired military officer, I find this as a justified reason for deploying our military. I can tell you this – those 100 combat ttroops going to Uganda would better serve this country by being deployed at the border. And I bet if you asked them – I am sure that they would rather be protecting Arizona and Texas than some far-away contry that poses no threat to the US. Where are the priorities with our government. SECURE THE D–N BORDER. To hell with politics.

    October 16, 2011 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  23. Jolene

    The handshake is stronger than the fist or a fence, Mr. Cain. What's next on your agenda, number tattoos on all Hispanics' arms?

    October 16, 2011 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  24. Rick McDaniel

    Actually that's exactly what it will take, to stop the illegals. Threat of being killed.

    October 16, 2011 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. jc

    Hey "Herb" Cain, instead of electrocuting Mexicans trying to enter the U.S. looking for slave-wage manual labor jobs, why don't we electrocute the employers who purposely higher the illegal immigrant worker for the expressed purpose of exploiting their legallity by paying them p*ss-poor wages for long hours spent in suspect working conditions. Oh wait, I was joking. Why hold those "job creators" responsible for exploting desparate people when you can blame the desparate people themselves?

    October 16, 2011 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
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