GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain came down hard on immigration Saturday on the campaign trail, telling crowds in Tennessee that part of his policy would be to build an electrified fence on the Mexican border that could potentially kill anyone trying to enter the country illegally.
He backed away from that proposal Sunday morning, however, saying he wasn't serious about the idea.
"That's a joke, David," he told NBC's David Gregory on "Meet The Press." "That's not a serious plan."
The New York Times relays Cain's description of the fence: "It's going to be 20 feet high. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you -- Warning.'"
Cain later added, "We want to make it easy for people to come through the front door. And we’re going to shut off the back door so you don't have to sneak into America." The presidential hopeful suggested also using armed military troops to help secure the border.
The idea of an electrified fence also surfaced at a campaign stop in Iowa this summer, when Cain suggested America build a border wall similar to the Great Wall of China, going so far as to advocate a moat full of alligators. Cain's remarks, via ThinkProgress:
I just got back from China. Ever heard of the Great Wall of China? It looks pretty sturdy. And that sucker is real high. I think we can build one if we want to! We have put a man on the moon, we can build a fence! Now, my fence might be part Great Wall and part electrical technology. ... It will be a twenty foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top, and on this side of the fence, I'll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!
The "alligators in the moat" idea referenced a tongue-in-cheek comment by President Barack Obama, while speaking on immigration reform in Texas back in May. "They’ll want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they'll want alligators in the moat, the president joked. "They’ll never be satisfied."
Cain's controversial remarks on border security caused a backlash from the national pro-immigration group Somos Republicans, which called on him to resign his candidacy. But Cain softened his remarks in an interview with the New York Times magazine in July, saying he meant if they could build that wall centuries ago, we can secure the border today, with a combination of walls and high-tech equipment.
Commenting on the remarks after the Fox News GOP debate in August, Cain dialed back further, insisting that "America's got to learn how to take a joke."