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. ricky vee

    I agree Herman! An electric fence is not only needed, we need to back it up with machine gun turrets and attack dogs. Keep the illegals OUT!

    October 17, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  2. Scott S.

    If Cain wants to tell jokes, he can go to any comedy club in the country and begin a new career. Being POTUS isn't a game, it's a serious job that requires tough decisions and complicated solutions to complicated problems. Some of these people just don't get that.

    October 17, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  3. Angus001

    Get ready for the left's racist attempts to discredit Cain. They will have no facts... Just their off hand childish comments.

    October 17, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  4. Rick

    Mr. Cain needs to realize that he's becoming the butt of his own jokes. I suppose if people liked what he said, then it was serious. If they didn't like it or were offended, it was a "joke."

    October 17, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  5. Maurice Johnson

    Is any really taking Herman Cain seriously...come on!

    October 17, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    If that was a joke, then that was in very poor taste. The delivery was terrible.

    In defiense of a 9% national sales tax did you notice Mr. Cain's "bad science" explanation of how 9-9-9 would not cause inflation, but instead cause prices to go down? Mr. Cain cited a hypothetical example of how there are "hidden", or "embedded" taxes in everything buy included a loaf of bread. He pointed out that taxes are currently charged at each step in the process of producing a loaf of bread and bringing it to market.

    Mr. Cain cited taxes on the delivery man, the baker, flour producer, etc. He claimed that under 9-9-9 all of those taxes are currently being paid would go away, which result in a lower price to you. That is pure, simple hogwash, and a shameless attempt to pull the wool over the public's eyes.

    Will those embedded taxes go away? Yes. But, Mr. Cain's crime is to pretend that nothing would take their place. Every link in the chain that brings a loaf of bread to market will simply be paying new taxes. If he was not playing all of us to be complete fools, then he was really telling us that companies would pay *no* taxes under his plan.

    October 17, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  7. Liz the First

    Cain IS the joke. and i heard him make this statement. he didn't sound like he was joking. it's way too easy to say something inflammatory and then say you were only joking when it's poorly received. the joke will be on us if this idiot ever made it to the White House.

    October 17, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  8. Kari

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

    Bait him? He said it! The media was simply asking about the statement and he said it was a joke. He could have stood by the statement and dealt with the consequences. No one stifled his free speech.

    October 17, 2011 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  9. glyder

    the important thing is,cain is anti-communist,anti-nazi,anti-progressive,anti-socialist.and apparently does not hate jews.all of those support the wall street protests.just another unrelated coinsidence.

    October 17, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  10. once upon a horse

    funny some people think that 9-9-9 is a joke as well. See some in America DO have a sense of humor

    October 17, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  11. cigarman

    I was going to vote for Herb because I like paying higher taxes and Herb is going to make the poor pay taxes , Herb will also attempt to get rid of medicare, medicade, and unemployment insurance and anything else that may help the middle class. The deciding factor to vote for Herb was the ELECTRIC FENCE, that was the best idea that he ever had, now he says that the statement was a joke, I guess I will not vote for Herb afterall since he is not serious about electrocuting ILLEGALS. I will have to vote for the NUT CASE Michelle, at least she will pray the gay away. LOL LOL LOL

    October 17, 2011 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  12. trey

    This article is a joke. First, if you don't have a sense of humor, then I suppose you really believe he was advocating the killing of mexican nationals. Secondly, sarcasm must be a lost art. Thirdly, the commenters on here are apparently unable to read the whole article and take everything to seriously. I guess you all also believe that Obama didn't bow to someone else, he really was shaking hands. This is why we have him as president. Unfortunately, there's not an intelligence test required before you vote.

    October 17, 2011 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  13. Gary, Hunt Valley, Md.

    If the joke fits..........wear it, Godfather. But seriously, could you describe the ingredients in your poison....I mean, PIZZA?

    October 17, 2011 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  14. Maryellen

    I guess I have no sense of humor, I don't think it's funny!

    October 17, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  15. maggie

    Thinkagain, you're probably right. How long will it be before we either have a group of illegals come out in their Godfather Pizza uniforms or before the stats start to show up.

    October 17, 2011 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  16. Mitt Romney

    We can have th fence and then Cain should inaugurate it by touching it and proving that it actually works. BTW, this is no joke!

    October 17, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  17. Larry L

    I knew a man from Germany who was trapped in the East when the Soviet Union built the fence to divide the country. He told me "first the build the fence to keep others out and protect you... then some day they tell the soldiers to turn around and suddenly you've the one in the cage.". I saw Herman Cain's speech and he wasn't joking. He was shooting off his mouth and revealing his character and that of his crowd.

    October 17, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  18. Dreamer96

    Gee I thought by the title "Cain's big Joke", that this story was going to be about how Cain's been geeting funds from the Koch Brothers for the last five years to push the Koch's plan of lowering, or eliminating the IRS....Oh well...Maybe tomorrow..Those Koch Brothers seem to be everywhere, behind the Tea Party, behind Scott Walker, Against Unions, behind Grover Norquist, behind Cain....Wow. Now caught dealing with Iran...Wow...

    But back to Cain and the fence comment. Just how is the public suppose to know, when these Republicans are making a joke anymore, they are serious about so many crazy ideas, that a joke like building an electrified fence, fits right in with giving the elderly a coupon for healthcare, and dumping them on the curb...

    October 17, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  19. tet1953

    I don't believe it was a joke. Cain did not realize until afterward that it was a faux pas, that lethal booby trapping, even on a border, is illegal.

    October 17, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  20. ED FL

    The biggest joke is Cain. If he wants to do vaudeville he better aquire more talent or apply for another job. Running this great country is not a joke. this freloaded probably never had a real job and got where he is through affirmitive action and other hand outs. Go back to delivering pizza's

    October 17, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  21. edyvan

    Ha Ha.....that was funny!

    October 17, 2011 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  22. ATL Guy

    This clown and the entire Republican Party is a joke. Everytime he says something stupid, he says its a joke. Yet they want to villify Obama for every single thing that he says or has said. He's a hypocrite and a clown.

    October 17, 2011 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  23. Dreamer96

    How are we suppose to know when they are joking? They keep saying crazy stuff that they really mean, that most people thought was a joke...

    October 17, 2011 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  24. mike

    Great another self styled Maverick, business man, presidential wanna-be. I think Mr. Cain has to realize that the USA is not a failing fast food pizza restaurant. Millions of american citizens are suffering and coming up with snotty quips and sound bites doesn't tell us how he can make America a better place. Mr. Cain your five minutes of fame are over. GO HOME!

    October 17, 2011 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  25. AnitFringe

    Too bad is was a joke. He could have increased his tea party support.

    October 17, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
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