The Many Walkbacks of Herman Cain

The former Godfather's Pizza CEO has been correcting his own statements a lot lately. The trend dates back to 2003.

Cain clarifications copy.jpg

The great thing about Herman Cain is that he's a straight-talker who shoots from the hip. What's wrong with America? Stupid people are ruining it. How to fix the economy? 9-9-9, my friend. What's wrong with politics and media? People need a sense of humor.

Right on.

But whenever one of his zesty hip-shots misses, Cain generally doubles back on himself and has to figure out, on the spot and with the cameras rolling, what it was he meant in the first place. "I think it has created an image of him as not being up to this task," Karl Rove said Monday on Fox News.

Most recently, Cain had to clarify his stance on abortion. When CNN's Piers Morgan asked him about cases of rape and incest, Cain seemed to contradict his "100-percent-pro-life" abortion stance by telling the host:

... what I'm saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn't have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.

On Friday, in a statement released by his campaign, Cain explained he was only talking about the role of the president.

During last week's CNN debate, Cain corrected something he'd told Wolf Blitzer earlier that day -- that he could see himself authorizing the release of hundreds of Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for a single U.S. solder. Cain made that qualified remark at the end of a discussion about Israel's exchange of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit:

That night, at the CNN-hosted Western Republican Legislative Conference debate in Las Vegas, Cain told moderator Anderson Cooper that he wouldn't negotiate with terrorists:

COOPER: ... Herman Cain, let me ask this to you. A few hours ago you were asked by Wolf Blitzer, if al Qaeda had an American soldier in captivity, and they demanded the release of everyone at Guantanamo Bay, would you release them? And you said, quote: "I can see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer. Can you explain?

CAIN: The rest of the statement was quite simply, you would have to consider the entire situation. But let me say this first, I would have a policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists. We have to lay that principle down first.

Now being that you have to look at each individual situation and consider all the facts. The point that I made about this particular situation is that I'm sure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to consider a lot of things before he made that.

So on the surface, I don't think we can say he did the right thing or not. A responsible decision-maker would have considered everything.

COOPER: But you're saying you could -- I mean, in your words, you've said that I could see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer. Isn't that negotiating with, in this case, al Qaeda?

CAIN: I don't recall him saying that it was al Qaeda-related.

COOPER: Yes, he did. He said ...

CAIN: Well, I don't really -- my policy will be we cannot negotiate with terrorists. That's where we have to start as a fundamental principle.

But wait,there's more. When Cain gave that muddled answer -- and followed-up in a way that contradicted his apparent earlier statement -- the media were already preoccupied with his apparent support for an electrified border fence.

On Oct. 15, Cain told two Tennessee crowds that he'd put an electrified fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. "It's going to be 20 feet high," he said. "And it's going to be electrified." The next day, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Cain insisted the electrified fence was a joke: "That's a joke," he told host David Gregory. "That's not a serious plan. I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor."

Except it might not have been a joke after all. The next day, after meeting with notorious immigration hardliner and Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Cain said he really did want to build a fence and that "it might be electrified."

Presented by

Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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