WASHINGTON (NBC) - Herman Cain says his proposal of an electrified fence along the US-Mexico border that could kill people was merely a "joke."
Cain made the comments at a campaign stop in Cookeville, Tenn., on Saturday.
The GOP presidential candidate told the audience his border security plan includes an electric fence with signs in English and Spanish, saying "it can kill you."
Cain also derided critics who may call the plan insensitive.
"Here again the skeptics go, 'Mr. Cain, how are you going to secure the border?' Well we got three - a combination of three things. It's common sense. Part of it will have a real fence, 20 feet high with barbed wire. Electrified. With a sign on the other side that says it can kill you. It would be in English and Spanish.
Then I get criticized, 'Mr. Cain, that's insensitive.' What do you mean insensitive? What's insensitive is when they come to the United States across our border and kill our citizens, and kill our border patrol people. That's insensitive, and I'm not worried about being insensitive to tell people to stop sneaking into America."
But when asked about those comments by NBC's David Gregory on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, the candidate said that he was joking, and said "America needs to get a sense of humor."
"On immigration, you said at an event in Tennessee that you would build an electrified fence on the border that could kill people if they tried to cross illegally," said Gregory in the Sunday interview.
The interview continued:
Cain: That's a joke David.
Gregory: It's a joke?
Cain: That's a joke.
Gregory: That's not a serious plan?
Cain: That's not a serious plan. No it's not.
Gregory: You got a big laugh out of that, but that's not what you'd do?
Cain: That's a joke. I've also said that America needs to get a sense of humor. That was a joke. Okay.
Gregory: So that's not serious. Would you deport illegal immigrants in the country now?
Cain: Here's my approach to illegal immigration. Here again this is what's resonating with people. How I would solve the problem. It's not as simple as would you deport. We must secure the border. Now it would be a combination of a physical fence, technology, and in some...areas we might have to put troops there. We must secure the border. Secondly, we must promote the path to citizenship that's already there. We need to clean up the bureaucracy. Third, enforce the laws that are already there. Now the way you do that is number 4, which is a bold idea. Empower the states to do what the federal government can't do and won't do as far as dealing with illegals that are in the United States today."
A new Rasmussen Reports poll was released Monday putting Cain ahead of President Obama in a head-to-head matchup. The poll showed Cain with 43 percent and Obama with 41 percent of the vote.