Electric fence remark was a joke, Cain says
October 16th, 2011
03:53 PM ET
9 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. gio

    It is sad that Cain has to take back his comment, one that millions of AMERICANS agree with, because liberals are too afraid that we might offend someone. This is America, we need to look out for our own and not other country's problems. We as Americans cannot go to Mexico and purchase a house. We cannot go over there and live and exploit their country and not get thrown in jail. If all these liberal are so concerned about Mexico, move down there and try to make a change. You will quickly realize that their own government doesn't care about them and the govt. certainly won't care about you. LETS TAKE BACK AMERICA AND HAVE SOME PRIDE IN OUR OWN COUNTRY. GOD BLESS AMERICA.

    October 16, 2011 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. w l jones

    When it come to illegitimate babies in a colored family gust look around you can see all those different races in one one house whole wonder who is who for the last three hundred years which is a joke!

    October 16, 2011 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  3. logic in LA

    He calls these comments a joke- again and again. As the leader of the free world, those kinds of comment would start wars. They are not funny. They are not called for , even on the campaign trail. If this is his style of conversation, then maybe he needs to reconsider his political calling.

    October 16, 2011 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  4. RespectOthersAlways

    Cain is as reckless as it comes. Joking about electrocuting people? What else is he joking about? It is clear that his 999 plan is a joke on Americas working families who will end up paying 10-15% more in taxes while the rich and super rich pay nothing on their capital gains.

    The tragedy of course is this: Because Mr. Cain is rich and black, many in the Republican Party don't quite know yet how to treat him. They know he is a joke, but they don't want to appear racist by calling it what it is! Yes, Mr. Cain is a joke. But he is not any more of a joke than any of the Republican candidates. So, why not support the biggest, loudest, and most outlandish jester? Why not support Cain?

    Anyone who understands the crisis in the nation today will know that the only reason Cain is rising within the GOP is because his tax plan will specifically benefit the rich and super rich and shift more taxes onto the middle class and the poor. That is the real joke on the American people.

    October 16, 2011 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  5. skarphace

    It is becomming more and more apparent that it is Cain himself who is the joke.

    The Republicans are propping him up because he parrots the Tea talking points and isn't afraid to make extreme comments then later on claim that it was 'just a joke'. He cannot continue to be taken seriously if he keeps doing so and he knows it.

    Just like Trump, Cain knows he will never win POTUS so it doesn't matter what he says. By being extreme he makes the serious candidates appear less extreme, and this is why the Tea Party likes him. He is willing to say what they don't want to say because their political career would be over. Cain's never truly began.

    October 16, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  6. MTATL67

    I don't agree with Mr. Cains views but I agree we need to lighin up & not be so PC. He said it when he was a radio personality & on the radio. He would dare say it now. He's to busy calling Americans expressing their constitutional right to freedom of speech "anti-American".

    October 16, 2011 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. LaMadrina

    Another 180. Shocker.

    October 16, 2011 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  8. Mark

    That would be several times that Cain has had to "walk back" his weird sense of humor

    October 16, 2011 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  9. ED FL

    The biggest joke of the year is an African American man running to be President of the United States for the Racist GOP.You should be on Saturday night live.

    October 16, 2011 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  10. Scum1981

    Honestly, I don't know how anyone can treat Herman Cain with anything even approaching seriousness. He is anti-abortion, which is fine, except that he's against it even for victims of rape or incest. He, along with the rest of the republican nominees, failed to rebuke the tea party audience for booing the gay soldier or cheering for capital punishment. He will eliminate 90% of the taxes that the wealthy pay by removing the capital gains tax and increase the tax on the middle class and poor. These are not solutions that are going to move the country forward. We can have a discussion about whether Obama has done enough or not, and there is room for Republican ideas, but I mean real republicans and not the corporate robots that are running for election now. If there was one person, that I needed to vote for from the republican's it would be Ron Paul. He may have some crazy ideas, but at least he's not bought. And that's more than any of the others can say.

    October 16, 2011 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  11. Larry L

    This "joke" excuse will be used to cover every stupid comment he makes. Given that requirement he'll have enough material to start a comedy club.

    October 16, 2011 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  12. Seattle Sue

    Everything Cain says is a joke. I guess Cain is a joker.

    October 16, 2011 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  13. Nabillion

    "9-9-9! Its a joke, God, Americans got to learn to have a sense of humor!"
    – Herm Cain

    October 16, 2011 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  14. The Elephant In The Room

    Are we suppose to erect our on Berlin Wall? Not practical Cain. Also, build a 20 foot fence and someone gets rich selling 22 foot ladders.

    October 16, 2011 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  15. Tired of the nonsense

    He insults Americans and then he backpedals.

    He's another Palin.

    October 16, 2011 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  16. B

    Cain is the joke, ernest ,but does not have the right stuff and that will soon be shown when he encounters a real debate on his policies like 999 with a broader knowledgeable audience.

    October 16, 2011 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  17. WiserThanYou

    Cain himself is the joke. How does running a (crappy) pizza chain qualify someone to become one of the most powerful people in the world? Somehow I find it hard to respect a man that jokes about electrocuting people on national television. Of course, I don't for a second thing he was actually joking.

    October 16, 2011 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  18. jnpa

    It seems to me that the GOP "contestants" keep making these stupid, non-presidential type remarks, and then when the American people rightfully complain, they say it was all a joke. Frankly, I think the GOP contestants are a joke!

    October 17, 2011 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  19. Kenny K

    Cain should have stayed with his position since he added that there will be a sign telling people about the danger of being electrocuted. Now he is making himself weak. Gngrich made the same mistake when he walked back his unique position on health care and social security.

    October 17, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  20. a in austin

    Wonder which of the 1% is paying him to run....

    October 17, 2011 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  21. Drake in Vancouver

    It's no joke to the millions of undocumented people in the US, the people in Mexico, and the citizens of border states. If i make a joke about black people does that mean Herman Cain has no sense of humor?

    October 17, 2011 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  22. manny

    American public to dumb to vote for someone with common sense & business experience like Mr. Cain...keep supporting clueless perpetually unemployeed self entiled losers occupying America. that's the answer!

    October 17, 2011 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  23. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    The statement only became a joke when there was blow-back. Had there been a few folks come out in support he would repeat it like his constant crowing about his 9-9-9 plan.

    October 17, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  24. Steve Jackson

    I really like sheriff joe arpaio of Arizona he is running the jail in a way all jails should be like your in jail for breaking the law so you shouldn't have alot of freedom and rights like TV MAGAZINE COMFORT OF HOME LIVING BUT BE PUT ON CHAIN GANGS MADE TO WORK

    October 17, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  25. desmond24

    The only thing worse than a lousy comedian is a lousy president. And, there is no doubt that we would get both with this Koch brothers puppet. The GOP is alway sticking their foot in their mouth and once again this exemplifies the moronic and insensitive nature of many, many GOP politicos. Is this attributable to the low I.Q. of these people or they just a mean spirited, ignorant, anti-intellectual, anti-science, superstitious lot? That the American people would consider voting for anyone on the current GOP ticket shows that we all need a better education.

    October 17, 2011 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
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