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. SFC Mike

    Cain needs to get back to the back of the bus. Oh, wait, that was a joke, I wasn't serious. You need to get a sense of humor.

    "That was a joke" is Cain's code phrase for "I ran my mouth, stuck my foot in it and got called for it, so now I'm going to duck the issue."

    October 17, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  2. Sniffit

    Riiiight....a joke...."It was just...WINK WINK...a joke...I didn't really mean it and I'm not...WINK WINK...really on the side of the most extreme of the right wing bigots who think it is financially feasible and physically possible to build a big fence that "closes the border" and then jumpstart a police state search-and-deport operation."

    October 17, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. Sniffit

    "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."

    Here's the thing though: if you want to sound serious about "protecting our border" (whatever that means...I take it usually to mean "keep out browny")...then yuo have to start by talking about it in a serious way. Both what you said and what Cain said sound like the infantile ramblings of someone who cannot distinguish between reality and Sunday morning cartoons.

    October 17, 2011 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. Kat Pruitt

    Even though I strongly believe in separation of church and state, I am amazed how many GOP supporters seriously back the idea of an electrified fence when so many of them DO NOT believe in the aforementioned separation. If, as so many of them also claim, they are Christians in a Christian nation, where is compassion for the poor (check Biblical references to caring for the poor in a concordance!)?...Where is the "judge not lest, etc...? WWJD?

    October 17, 2011 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  5. Sniffit

    "But we're headed straight for that shark, sir!!!"

    "No worries...engage jump thrusters..."

    October 17, 2011 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  6. JohnRJ08

    To echo other comments here, Mr. Cain is a joke. A bad one. He may have been OK at marketing pizza, but he would be a catastrophe as President of the United States. The corporate executive mentality does not translate to public servant, the president is the ultimate public servant. Cain's candidacy is built on simplistic slogans and pontifical assertions that could only come out of the mouth of a CEO. most important of all, Herman Cain is too self-absorbed to realize that he is being exploited by the white power structure of the RNC, which is trying to prove that it is undeserving of its racist reputation over the last 50 years.

    October 17, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  7. dreucalypt

    I'm sure a lot of Republicans wish Cain's remark weren't a joke, and I'm not sure even in Cain's mind it was "only" a joke.

    October 17, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. Skitownrefugee

    When you see the video of Cain telling the southern crowd how he's going to build a fence and the Mexican border – two things are noteworthy: 1. His southern accent which is not at all evident during Republican debates (pandering to the southerners) 2. He doesn't come across as some who is joking. He says it straight faced and forcefullly.

    His retraction is a lie.

    October 17, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  9. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    The Obama adminisrartion's idea of border security is to sell thousands of automatic weapons to known Mexican drug cartel members then plead ignorance of the entire operation. Eric Holder should be removed and Obama impeached for naming such a complete buffoon to such a high office. Two total incompetents!

    October 17, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. gerr

    Usually when someone says a joke I ddon't get and then explains it was a joke I can see some effort of humor in the joke. I still can't. He want Americans to be happy?

    October 17, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  11. Al-NY,NY

    More backtracking by a republican...."I am sorry IF I offended anyone" "I didn't really mean that" (although I made no such comment to refudiate it when initially said)" "That was taken out of context by the lamestream media". "that monkey e-mail was not supposed to be circulated outside of my little hate group circle. The person who did that is in trouble"..yadda yadda yadda. These clowns don't know what they are doing. The sheep will believe their idiotic comments, AND give them a pass when they claim whatever. As long as they keep putting both feet in their mouths, Obama is a shoo-in

    October 17, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  12. gerr

    Koch brothers are wasting their money again. Wisconsin Gov Walker and Cain.

    October 17, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. NoGr8rH8r

    In addition to an electric fence , please add U.S. Death Squads to our Southern border. That'll get my vote! : )

    October 17, 2011 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. mike

    He was only kidding...it's really not going to have a waring sign on it

    October 17, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. emma

    Mr. Cain, if you think the things you say are above reproach, think again. That could translate to fewer votes for you. Your view of your greatness is concerning.

    October 17, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  16. emma

    So Herman Cain is a self-acclaimed leader-to-be who thinks he can decide what people should laugh at. I do not think what he said was intended as a joke until he was challenged. How can this man, who never accepts his own humanness, be our leader?

    October 17, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "How you like me now?!"

    October 17, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  18. Noodle Nose Johnson

    Maybe Herm can be Comedian in Chief. Cuz he's never going to be Commander in Chief.

    October 17, 2011 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. Chipster

    I think most people realized it was a joke. A lot of us, however, didn't think it was in good taste, appropriate or particularly funny. Sometimes, what a person considers funny tells us a lot about who that person really is inside. I also don't think his 9-9-9 plan is very funny. The middle class and poor spend much more of their hard-earned money on necessities – those things that Cain would tax. They don't generally have much money for investments and Capital Gains real estate deals, those earnings that Cain would allow to be tax-free.

    October 17, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. Lizzie

    Normajean, so what did you know about the current president, nada, zill, zero,( still don't know nothing about him) except you make history if you elect him.

    October 17, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. notlikeyou

    You mean, Cain is one big joke. Dems are right about one thing. Republicans just won't admit how they really don't want a black man....any black man...in the White House. Can't say that's a bad thing. It's probably better for the country in the end. It's hard to admit that some races just fall short of being great leaders. Perhaps it's genetic...don't really know.

    October 17, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. Lizzie

    Gerr, leave the Koch brothers out of this, or you have to be reminded of George Soros, Jeff Immelt and the Unions, who have pay and bought the democratic party and calling the shots.

    October 17, 2011 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. TomCA

    Why won't Cain leave the comedy to the professionals? I know another person who tries to claim he was making a joke when ever he sais somthing stupid. He is my cousin Bradly and he has an IQ of 70.

    October 17, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. Redmond Jennings

    I would like Cain to name one policy proposal of his that isn't a joke. Alligators on the Mexican border? The "999 Plan"? Extra loyalty oaths for Muslim Americans? Has this man proposed anything at all that could actually be enacted into law?

    October 17, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  25. Jake

    because the idea of an electric fence designed to hurt people is HILARIOUS!

    October 17, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
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