Sheriff Joe Arpaio made it clear at a Phoenix press conference today that he was not officially endorsing anyone yet in the GOP presidential race, but took a moment to defend Herman Cain’s controversial “electric fence” comment.
At a stop last Saturday in Cookeville, Tennessee, along his Memphis to Nashville bus tour, Cain had explained how he would secure the U.S. border by building an electrified fence along the southern border of the country.
“I got an electric fence; it doesn’t kill people,” Arpaio said Monday at the press conference.
Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona added that most of the GOP hopefuls had already reached out to have a meeting with him.
As for Cain, he said the two didn’t really talk. The last time he really spoke with Cain, he said, was three months ago in Vegas.
“I was impressed with him and I’m still impressed with him,” said Arpaio.
“I’ll tell you one thing that stands out with me, he’s sort of unconventional. I like to call myself controversial.” Arpaio, best known for his outspoken comments on illegal immigration and his harsh law enforcement tactics in the state of Arizona, said of Cain.
“I think that’s refreshing. The way things are going in this country, that’s why the people like him and support him, he’s a new fresh face and he’s telling it like it is. So I kind of respect people who are not typical politicians,” he said.
He also added that Cain defended his “electric fence” comment as a mere joke.
“He said it was a joke. And all I can tell you, I take controversy too. I have an electric fence around the tent jail. I have illegal immigrants there, I have illegals on the chain gang. So nobody goes after me. So why are they worried about him making a comment during a campaign, speaking from then heart. It just shows he’s frustrated with the government and he told a joke, I guess,” Arpaio said.
Arpaio added he’s had Perry and Romney call him but still hasn’t endorsed anyone.
“They come to me, I don’t call them,” he said.
Right outside the building where Cain and Arpaio held their press conference, a group of “Occupy Phoenix” protestors had set up camp. A few confronted the Sheriff on immigration when he exited the building. The Sheriff was unfazed, admitting he’d had more people protesting against him in the past.
As for the protestors, the group consider themselves “the 99%,” and have been camped out in Cesar Chavez Square in downtown Phoenix since Saturday in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. While their numbers do not match what has been seen in downtown New York, the protestors say they share the same message and have set up makeshift tents and stockpiles of food.