Herman Cain says his call for 20 foot electrified border fence was a joke

Herman Cain

Presidential contender Herman Cain was joking when he promised his administration would build a 20 foot electrified fence on the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants.

At a pair of campaign stops in Tennessee on Saturday, Cain said the United States has an immigration crisis and he would be willing to put U.S. troops on the border in addition to the barbed-wire fence with a sign that says "it will kill you -- warning," the New York Times reported.

Asked about the comments Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, Cain said he was joking.

"That's not a serious plan," Cain told host David Gregory, "that's a joke. I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor. That was a joke, OK?"

The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza said he would "secure the border" with a host of measures, including troops.

"It'd be a combination of a physical fence, technology, and, in some terrible areas, we might have to put troops there. We must secure the border," he said on NBC.

"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," he added.

"The way you do that is, is number four, 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 the illegals that are in the United States today," Cain said, without explaining how the states could be empowered.

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    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.