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. virginianvoter324

    Sounds like Marty can't handle a rich, conservative black man. Don't like black men with money?

    October 17, 2011 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  2. Rich

    I pray to any God that he is the GOP pick and Palin is his running mate........LOL
    Hopefully the good ole southern boys will back him...yea right!

    October 17, 2011 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  3. Mel

    He is just following in Palin's footsteps. He's not in it to win it. He's only in for the attention and money. He is probably cracking up that people have actually taken his 9-9-9 plan seriously when he was just joking. But as a comic he now has to be more outrageous to get the real reaction he wanted and then he will bow out...tick tock.

    October 17, 2011 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  4. ThinkAgain

    @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 sickens you that we have the freedom to disagree with what a public figures says, exercising our First Amendment rights when doing so? It sickens you that Cain doesn't have the stones to stand by his words?

    It sickens ME that you won't accept the FACT that if American companies weren't willing to hire illegal aliens (for cheap wages, so they don't have to pay American citizens a decent wage) the illegals wouldn't come here in the first place.

    It sickens ME that you think every "Mexican" that comes to our country illegally holds us in contempt and expects us to support them. Check your facts: Crime by illegal aliens is less than their American citizen counterparts. These folks work harder and longer for lower wages than most Americans and contribute greatly to our economy – just ask Alabama if you don't believe me. Lastly, if American employers paid them a decent wage, they wouldn't need public assistance. And regarding the size of their family, what would you rather they do – have abortions?

    October 17, 2011 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  5. Jeremy

    Cain, now is not the time for joking around. People are TRYING to make informed decisions. Between stupid "jokes" and comments taken out of context by the media...how is anyone supposed to make an informed decision anyway?!?!?

    October 17, 2011 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Frank

    These GOP clowns cannot say anything which they do not need to later retract! Does the record of the walls in Berlin and Israel suggest a wall between the US and Mexico will not become a historical embarrassment? How stupid and ignorant.

    October 17, 2011 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  7. Don

    His biggest joke is thinking he can be president

    October 17, 2011 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. DIANA

    The real joke is that you stand a chance of becoming our President, let alone the Republican nominee.

    October 17, 2011 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. Larry L


    You have a strange name for a Native American. Otherwise, you'd be a product of immigrants.

    October 17, 2011 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  10. The Real Tom Paine

    Cracking bad jokes about an emotionally-charged issue is not presidential. If a Democrat made jokes abotu abortion, the Right would be screaming for his head and issue a fatwah. The fact he tells the country to lighten up tells me he does not take this seriously. On the other hand, why should he take it seriously? He's all set, so he figures, screw everyone else ( since I'm on the Koch Brothers' retainer).

    October 17, 2011 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  11. tj

    Cain tells jokes, Obama is a joke. Big difference.

    October 17, 2011 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. sgurdog

    If this is a joke, then the joke is on Herman Cain. This guy is a class A idiot! He's not a serious candidate...he's a dunce meant to be a distraction from weak policy ideas from the right. They had full control of government and still didn't do ONE thing about immigration, so what makes anyone believe they will do it EVER? The whole GOP party need to build an electric fence around them to protect their bubble.

    October 17, 2011 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. jb1963

    Mr Cain thinks we are all stupid. He uses the joke line every time he says something wrong. electrify the fence Oh it was a joke. Only small bills Oh that was a joke to. You know what Mr Cain Like your pizza you are the joke and the republicans that like you are a bigger joke.

    October 17, 2011 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  14. ricnaustin

    Amazing how these candidates continuously make comments and then have to retract. Their first comments are a truth about who they really are: mean, selfish, narrow-minded, .... I'll stop there.

    Any one of those candidates have any compassion? Hardly. Obama? Always.

    Obama 2012!!!!

    October 17, 2011 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  15. Dean

    the clown currently in the White House is a bad joke.

    October 17, 2011 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  16. The Real Tom Paine


    If he is, then you won't be laughing after November 2012. Can't wait to see the screaming from the Right after they get their walking papers.

    October 17, 2011 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  17. A very funny guy . . .

    Do you want a "funny extremist" as President?

    October 17, 2011 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  18. carly

    Everything with Cain is a joke. Esp. the fact that he is running as a republican and believes that he can win the nomination in a party where Southern right wing racists have no intention to vote for him. Many closeted tea party members are pretending to back him but there is no chance they will when the nomination process begins.

    October 17, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  19. spirit

    Let's address whether or not his policies on economics will work, firstly. As for the fence comment, it may have been inappropriate but many Americans are fed up with seeing some political leaders offering amnesty and subsidies using tax dollars. The deterrents currently in place aren't working because they're not being applied in every state. People are too PC to saying anything and risk being jumped on by pro-illegal sympathizers. Legal yes, illegal no. Cain, watch your mouth.

    October 17, 2011 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  20. paul

    And this guy is winning straw votes!!!!! The Republican field is a bunch of extremist trying to get the tea party vote. After the primary, they all will be "walking a lot of comments back" trying to win a general election or holding on to their current seat. Cain is quickly replacing Bachman with the most off the wall comments. Crazy group.

    October 17, 2011 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  21. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    So how does he feel about landmines?

    October 17, 2011 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  22. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    I believe an electric fence is insufficent. It should only be the last obstacle they have to get by. A 30' feet barbed wire fence all the way up, immediately backed by a very deep, aligator infested moat, with another 30' barbed wire fence, backed up by a minefield, THEN the electrical fence! If you survive all that, WELCOME TO AMERICA! Then people might get the hint, we're serious about protecting our borders.

    October 17, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  23. Anonymous

    Picture if you will this man is in the White House and he has his finger on the BIG RED BUTTON and someone says something to offend him or rile him up. hmmmm Next planet please. Maybe he will aim the rockets at Mexico?? Just what we need is a war on our very own borders. Great diplomacy there.

    October 17, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  24. Florida Joe

    I don't find electrocution to be a humorous subject. Apparently, Mr. Cain does find humor in this. I suspect that he actually meant what he said initially, and was surprised by the fact that most human don't share his rather highly warped views. This man does not deserve the trust of the people.

    October 17, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  25. bubba

    Hey Think Again....talk about statements involving deadly force? Who said this..."If they bring a knife, you bring a gun." Clue...this wasn't a presidential "candidate"....

    October 17, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
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