Anderson Cooper Whacks Cain Again In 'Keeping Them Honest' on...Jokes?

CNN's Anderson Cooper opened his Monday night show hitting GOP candidate Herman Cain for his comments on immigration, which Cain claimed were meant in jest. Cooper continued lock-step with his trend of hitting Republicans with critical "Keeping Them Honest" reports at a much higher rate than Democrats.

It was Cooper's third "Keeping Them Honest" report on Cain in less than two weeks, which equals the same number of those reports that President Obama has received in three full months.

"He says he's only joking and said it again just this evening," Cooper spoke of Cain's comments that as President, he would install an electric fence on the Mexican border with a moat full of alligators. "But new polling shows him to be a serious candidate at this point....So people are now taking everything he says seriously whether he likes it or not."

As an MRC study showed, Cooper's "Keeping Them Honest" reports have targeted dishonesty with Republican candidates and politicians far more than Democrats. In the year 2011, these investigative reports focused on Republicans over Democrats at a rate of over three-to-one.

Cooper only started focusing on Cain less than two weeks ago, where he explained that because Cain was a leading GOP candidate and "no longer a voice on the fringe," he would keep him honest. Since then, Cooper has run two more critical segments on the candidate, including Monday night's piece.

Cooper could also have done a "Keeping Them Honest" segment on President Obama's comments on Monday, where he hit Republicans for wanting "dirtier air," "dirtier water," and "less people with health insurance." Viewers will have to wait until the next airing of Anderson Cooper 360, however, to see if he keeps the President honest over those remarks.

Cooper went on to report Monday that "Cain is neither a professional politician nor a polished candidate" and "makes no claim that he is, and in fact takes pride in the fact that he's not."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on October 17 at 8:00 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

[8:00]

ANDERSON COOPER: We begin though, tonight, "Keeping Them Honest" with Herman Cain, the latest GOP frontrunner. He's been telling people to lighten up and not take everything he says so seriously, especially some controversial remarks he's been making repeatedly about stopping illegal immigration.

He says he's only joking and said it again just this evening. But new polling shows him to be a serious candidate at this point. He's now in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in a new CNN/ORC survey. So people are now taking everything he says seriously whether he likes it or not.

As to whether you like what he's saying or not, that's entirely up to you. But "Keeping Them Honest" tonight whatever political position you happen to have, the question for Herman Cain or anyone wanting to be president is this – can you be a serious candidate without serious scrutiny of what you say and how you say it? Here's what Mr. Cain said on Saturday about illegal immigration.

(Video Clip)

HERMAN CAIN, GOP presidential candidate: Well, I'll tell you what, when I'm in charge of the fence, we're going to have a fence. It's going to be 20 feet high. It's going to have barbed wire on the top. It's going to be electrocuted – electrified. And there's going to be a sign on the other side that says, it will kill you.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Herman Cain at a campaign stop in Tennessee on Saturday. Sunday on "Meet the Press," he said, just joking.

(Video Clip)

DAVID GREGORY, host, NBC's Meet the Press: On immigration, you said it at an event in Tennessee that you would build an electrified fence on the border that could kill people if they try to cross illegally.

CAIN: That's a joke, David.

GREGORY: It's a joke. So –

CAIN: That's a joke. That's a joke.

GREGORY: That's not a serious plan.

CAIN: That's not a serious plan, no, it's not.

GREGORY: OK. You got a big laugh at that. But that's not what you'd do.

CAIN: That's a joke. I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor. That was a joke, OK?

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Well the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today not laughing. Texas Democrat Charlie Gonzalez saying, quote, "Whether or not he made his comments in jest, Mr. Cain's words show a lack of understanding of the immigration issues our country is facing and a staggering lack of sensitivity."

Mr. Cain's Republican opponent Michele Bachmann also weighing in today, calling the issue, quote, "no laughing matter." Whatever you think of it this isn't the first time Mr. Cain's tried to get a laugh out of the issue. Here's an appearance back in June.

(Video Clip)

CAIN: If we have put a man on the moon, we can build a fence. Now, my fence might be part great wall and part electrical, you know, technology. You know? I was describing my fence to somebody tonight. Got a call and said that's insensitive. I said, what's insensitive? I said, well, (Unintelligible) a fence, and it'll be a 20-foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top.

And on this side of the fence I'd have that moat that President Obama talked about and I'll go put those alligators in that moat.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: That was Herman Cain in June. Two months later Herman Cain saying, hey, lighten up.

(Video Clip)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You upped the ante with, quote, "a 20-foot barbed wire electrified fence." Were you serious?

CAIN: America has got to learn how to take a joke.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Now it's pretty clear Herman Cain is neither a professional politician nor a polished candidate. He makes no claim that he is, and in fact takes pride in the fact that he's not. Last month in South Carolina he told supporters that political correctness is not one of his strong points, then went on to prove it with more remarks about illegal immigrants.

Quote, "If we can keep a dog in a yard with an invisible fence," he said, "don't you think we can keep people from sneaking into this country?" Seconds later he said, quote, "Now I know I'm going to get written up for talking about putting, you know, invisible fences and treating illegal immigrants like dogs."

But it's not just dogs, fences and immigrants. A few years back the subject was Tiger Woods. This was pre-9 iron, pre-divorce. Herman Cain was touting Tiger Woods as a 2016 presidential material. He wrote, "The Republican Party should begin grooming him now for a run at the White House. His personal attributes and accomplishments on the golf course point to a candidate who'll be a problem solver, not a politician." Sunday he said –  wait for it –

(Video Clip)

CAIN: That was a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That was a joke?

CAIN: That was a joke, OK? That was a joke. America's got to learn how to have a sense of humor, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Unintelligible) pretty serious.

CAIN: Yeah, I can be pretty serious, but also there's some things that, you know, you just kind of take tongue-in-cheek and you don't make a big deal out of it. All right?

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Well, earlier this evening Herman Cain spoke with John King about his immigration remarks.

(Video Clip)

CAIN: John, and yeah, I haven't learned how to be politically correct yet, so yes, it probably wasn't the right thing to say. And I meant – I did not mean to offend anybody.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: So Cain certainly not backing down as he also did in South Carolina. He mentions his lack of what he says political correctness as a virtue if not a badge of honor. So will it hurt or help him in the primaries, and potentially further down the road?

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014