The problem with being ahead of the pack in any political race, as Herman Cain’s quickly learning, is that suddenly people are combing through your record and past statements and positions can come back to bite you. Cain has come under fire for making incendiary comments before, but now that he’s in the top tier of candidates vying to become the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, such remarks are being taken much more seriously.
Cain has been in the hot seat for the past few days because of a controversial comment he made over the weekend about building an electric fence around the U.S.-Mexico border.
“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 said at campaign rallies in Tennessee, adding later that the sign would be written in English and Spanish.
On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Cain said that he was joking and that “America needs to get a sense of humor.” The suggestion drew criticisms from Hispanic advocacy groups and others, and by Monday, he was apologizing.
“Words have consequences, both in shaping ideas and inspiring actions. Whether or not he made his comments in jest, Mr. Cain’s words show a lack of understanding of the immigration issues our country is facing and a staggering lack of sensitivity," Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) said in a statement. "Surely, Mr. Cain understands the duty that candidates have to offer responsible policy proposals."
At a Monday campaign stop in Arizona, where he was meeting with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a fervid anti-immigration proponent, Cain reiterated that he’d only been kidding but said he hadn’t meant to offend anyone, The Associated Press reports.
“It was a joke. I apologize if I offended anyone. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.”
The apology came with a caveate, though.
“The ones that were offended because I want to keep illegals out, I’m not apologizing for that,” he added.
(Photo: REUTERS/Eric Thayer)