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Was Cain's electric-fence comment really a joke?

Herman Cain supporters may be surprised to find that the first step in his four-point immigration plan is actually a joke, according to comments the Republican presidential hopeful made yesterday on "Meet the Press."

Cain spent last week campaigning in Tennessee, and at multiple stops throughout the state, he talked about building a barbed wire electric fence that could kill those who tried to climb it to enter the country illegally. The line drew raucous applause from Tea Party crowds during at least two of his stops in the Volunteer State. 

In Cookeville, TN, on Saturday, Cain even went on to defend the idea of a deadly fence against those who feel it is inhuman. “I get criticized. ‘Mr. Cain, that’s insensitive.’ What do you mean insensitive?” he asked the crowd. “What’s insensitive is when they come to the United States across our border and kill our citizens, and kill our border patrol people.”

He repeated his support for the idea a few hours later at his next stop in Harriman.

But when pressed about the fence yesterday by NBC's David Gregory, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO said it was all in jest. “That's a joke,” Cain said. “I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor.”

What’s still unclear is whether Cain favors a non-electric barrier along the border.  The Cain campaign has not yet responded to a question by NBC News to clarify the candidate’s plan to secure the border.

On the campaign trail, Cain has frequently cited the fence as the first of four steps he would take to secure the border. Here are the four points of his immigration plan:

1) build a fence;
2) promote a path to citizenship for legal immigrants;
3) enforce the immigration laws that are already in place; and
4) empower the states to enforce the laws that the federal government does not.

Cain’s presidential website makes no mention of constructing a permanent barricade along the  country’s southern border. The section of the site that explains his stance on immigration reads “taking a stand on the issue does not mean one lacks compassion.”