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. Jamie from Riverside

    His candidacy is the real joke.

    October 17, 2011 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. gg

    it would create a job cleaning up the dead wildlife–a job plan

    October 17, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    Cracking bad jokes about an emotionally-charged issue is not presidential.
    You mean like "shovel ready wasn't quite as shovel ready as we thought"???? I agree. Obama is not presidential material!

    October 17, 2011 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  4. Marie MD

    I love these rethug clowns. Electric fences, executions of innocent people, death panels, corporations are people, John Wayne gacy or the actor born in Iowa, pray away the gay. The list of dumbness goes on and on and on!

    October 17, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  5. nonya

    to tet1953 (9:08 this morning)"...lethal booby trapping, even on the border, is illegal." If Cain had said "Let's put up an electric fence with a sign that reads 'Welcome, come on in.'" That would be booby trapping. Warning them that they would be killed if they entered is not a booby trap. Not that I am on Cain's side. It's just that your comment is a little stupid.

    October 17, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. John

    The human/drug smugglers are too smart and powerful to let anyone else (terrorists) use our southern border the way they do. What makes those smugglers so powerful is the vast DIFFERENCE in wealth on either side of the border. Part of the wealth on our side is fake, inflated wealth. The smugglers are using this to suck that wealth back out of our country and into their hands making them more powerful than their own governments and turning their countries into 3rd world hell-holes that makes the difference in wealth even bigger and the cycle continues. A fence won't hold back the enormous pressure exerted by the difference in wealth. Redistribution is not the answer,... stopping or reversing our inflation can HELP... SERIOUSLY working on ways to make our closest southern neighbor as strong and healthy as we are would remove that pressure, obviate the smugglers, and the whole continent will be stronger and safer. Easier said than done for sure, but, sometimes the only real answer won't fit into a nice little sound bite that extremists like to hear.

    October 17, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. Mark

    What Mr. Cain said might have been a joke, but he actually spoke what millions of Americans have been thinking for a long time. It's way beyond time to rid this nation of all illegal immigrants and the joke may become a reality before long. I admire Mr. Cain for speaking his mind and standing up for what he believes in and I also think that more people will be behind this man than the news media's , so called experts, believe.

    October 17, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  8. Lisa P

    I'm amazed that Cain is trying to walk back this comment - doesn't he know who his supporters are? They might have been able to figure out that the alligators were a joke, but an electric fence? That's gotta be serious! And none of that "green energy" to power it, neither!

    October 17, 2011 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. Mane

    Cain's candidacy is the joke regardless of what the polls say

    October 17, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  10. Squealy

    Ah, the old "I was joking" walk-back. Yeah, funny joke. Cain, you are a laugh-riot.

    October 17, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  11. Phillip M

    Come on folks, look at the jokes Obama makes about his shovel ready stimulis, and how much money did that joke cost us? This last three years has been a joke and you still do not see it. I feel bad for you. wake up and see what shape this country has been taken. the road back is going to take alot of work.

    October 17, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. Arun

    Is everything a joke to this idiot?? The only thing I see as a joke would be if he was elected president!! Please NO!

    October 17, 2011 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |

    When wingnuts tout a plan as "BOLD", They mean kill Social Security and Medicare.

    October 17, 2011 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  14. Shawn in MD

    While Mr. Cain touts this business experience, why doest he mention about his long standing relationship with AFP ???

    October 17, 2011 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  15. Fran

    Typical Teapublican response to problems: Kill.

    October 17, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. Bill

    Don't joke with the press when they have already made up their minds. I'm sure a lot of people (not joking) think this fence isn't a bad idea. Illegal should mean "Illegal".

    October 17, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. JJ

    This guy doesn't have the plums to stand behind his stupid remarks. When you're trying to run for president of the USA, if you're gonna say something, you d*mn well better mean it 'cause you know it's going everywhere. This guy is just a spineless coward. He casually mentions killing people for what really is a minor infraction, gets called out on it, then tells US that we nee to get a sense of humor? Go the fck to hll cain!!

    October 17, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. ike

    The Pot getting rid of the pan – Hermain Cain has been on a roll calling blacks brain washed, Muslims taking a test to prove they love America now on the offence against Lations, next he will get em whites

    October 17, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. Todd in DC

    He was not kidding. He really wants an electrified fence across the border with Mexico.

    Fortunately for the US, there is no way in this century will the GOP ever vote for a black man to be the republican nominee. No way, no how.

    October 17, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  20. The Equalizer

    I am Mexican – Canadian, and although I do believe the illegal immigration is big problem and that both countries have to do something about it, America has to protect its territory and its economy, Mexico has to solve his out of control violence, corruption and poverty. Having said that , it brings some level of comfort to read that must Americans in this forum are outraged by these xenophobic and fascist remarks. Particularly coming from someone who's skin color represented at some point in American History the symbol of oppression and racism. Smarten up Mr. Cain. The Joke will be on you when is time to cast the ballots.

    October 17, 2011 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. CBR

    The joke backfired and Mr. Cain now needs to explain his remarks. It was not funny the first time and it is not funny now. The fence conjures up a lot of distrust. The problems on the Mexican border will require a unified effort and right now it is each state making their own rules. So much for unity.

    October 17, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  22. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    OK. That's it. Joke or not a joke, Herman is getting my vote!! I love the way this man thinks. 🙂

    October 17, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. Eduardo

    Don't worry guys. Remember that most of the electricity that US border cities consume is imported from Mexico. Then Mexico will have the on-off switch for that electric Fence.

    October 17, 2011 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  24. Ric

    I am glad this guy Cain does not represent the view of most African Americans. To imply that poor people crossing the border in search or opportunities (human beings desperate enough to risk their lives in order to find ways to support their families) to imply that they should be treated as cattle, is not only dehumanizing and hat mongering, it is also out right immoral, unethical, unchristian and un American. Shame on you Cain, by your choice of jokes we get to know your own soul.

    October 17, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  25. CAL USA

    Mr. Cain is proving something that Rick Perry inadvertently let out of the bag. It sure looks like Conservatives don't have a heart. You will not find a single liberal in favor of letting someone die without medical treatment because they lacked insurance. The last time we saw people killed for crossing a border was when the East Germans shot their own citizens. Is that the kind of America you folks really want? Maybe that's why George W. Bush had to invent the mythological character called a "Compassionate Conservative". We're still looking for the first one.

    October 17, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
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