Washington (CNN) – The head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is calling out GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain for controversial remarks he made over the weekend that if he was in charge he'd build an "electrified" 20-foot high US-Mexico border fence with a sign displayed "that says it will kill you."
The businessman and radio host has since said he was joking. But Texas Democratic Rep Charlie Gonzalez is not laughing and released a written statement Monday criticizing Cain.
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.
"Words have consequences, both in shaping ideas and inspiring actions. Whether or not he made his comments in jest, Mr. Cain's words show a lack of understanding of the immigration issues our country is facing and a staggering lack of sensitivity," Gonzalez said.
Cain made the comments at a campaign stop in Tennessee on Saturday.
But on Sunday he emphasized in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the comments were meant as a joke.
"I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor. That was a joke, OK," Cain said.
But Gonzalez ripped the Georgia businessman's attempt at humor.
"I see nothing funny about killing other human beings. Leave the comic routines to the professional comedians," Gonzalez said.
The Hispanic Caucus Chairman called on Cain to instead focus on comprehensive immigration reform and urged other Republican presidential candidates to immediately "repudiate" the comments.
Cain's campaign did not have an immediate response to Gonzalez' criticism.
But earlier Monday Minnesota Republican Rep Michele Bachmann echoed Gonzalez' sentiment about the tone of Cain's remarks, saying in Arizona, "this is no laughing matter, the border fence." Bachmann supports building a fence along the border.
Cain will be joining most of the 2012 GOP field in the CNN Western Republican presidential debate on Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. The state is attracting a lot of attention from Republican candidates because its GOP caucus on January 14, 2012 is among the handful of early states voting, and it is the first western state. With Hispanics making up over a quarter of the state's population the debate over how to respond to illegal immigration is already a flashpoint among the candidates.