Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has used his stump speech recently to address what he sees as “a crisis of illegal immigration.” As part of his pitch, Cain has talked up a border fence that will kill those trying to cross, though yesterday, he claimed to be kidding.

At two campaign rallies in Tennessee on Saturday night, the Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said that part of his immigration policy would be to build an electrified fence on the country’s border with Mexico that could kill people trying to enter the country illegally.

But by Sunday morning, in a dramatic change of tone, Mr. Cain, a former restaurant executive, said he was only kidding.

“That’s a joke,” Mr. Cain told the journalist David Gregory during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he was asked about the electrified fence. “That’s not a serious plan. I’ve also said America needs to get a sense of humor.”

Two things. First, the notion that an ostensible presidential candidate would try to find humor — over and over again — in killing immigrants isn’t encouraging.

Second, Cain wasn’t kidding. TPM posted this video from MSNBC this morning, showing the candidate’s remarks.

YouTube video

For those who can’t watch clips online, Cain told a cheering audience, “We’ll have a real fence: 20 feet high, with barbed wire. Electrified. With a sign on the other side that says, ‘It can kill you.’ … 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.”

The right-wing candidate made the same argument in multiple appearances.

“That’s a joke” isn’t exactly a compelling response.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.