Presidential candidate Herman Cain struck back at black leaders who criticized him as callous toward the poor and ignorant of history, saying he will not allow people who "don't want black people to think for themselves" to try and "intimidate" him into keeping silent.
The businessman and Republican presidential candidate, in an interview on Fox News, vigorously defended himself against critics unhappy with his recent comments on race and the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Singer Harry Belafonte called Cain a "bad apple." Princeton University professor Cornel West said Cain's remarks reflect a "coldness toward poor people."
But Cain said the "offensive" criticism is just a familiar tactic to marginalize him. He suggested his status as a prominent black conservative makes him a target, but said the attacks will not succeed.
"I left the Democratic plantation a long time ago. And all that they try to do when someone like me ... the only tactic that they have to try and intimidate me and shut me up is to call me names, and this sort of thing. It just simply won't work," Cain said.
As for West's criticism, he said the professor has "been in academia too long."
"I've been in the real world. He's been in academia," Cain said. "So he's back on this symbolic stuff."
West singled out Cain -- who recently stirred controversy by saying those who don't have jobs and aren't wealthy should blame themselves -- during an interview on Fox News on Monday.
"Brother Herman Cain, he's Exhibition A of a coldness toward poor people, a callousness toward working people," West said. On CNN, West also said Cain should get off the "symbolic crackpipe."
In a separate interview on CNN, Belafonte criticized Cain for saying racism is not a major factor in holding people back in America.
"It's very hard to comment on somebody who is so denied intelligence and certainly someone who is as denied a view of history such as he reveals. He knows very little," Belafonte said, adding that Cain's "good fortune" does not make him "the authority on the plight of people of color."
"And Herman Cain is just the latest incarnation of what is totally false to the needs of our community and the needs of our nation. I think he's a bad apple," he said.
Cain, on Fox News, said he's had a "big bulls-eye" on his back since winning the recent Florida straw poll. Cain has also surged in several national polls in the last few weeks.
"It's coming from everybody who do not like the fact that I as an American black conservative am in a position to be able to speak my mind and tell the truth and wake people up," Cain said. "But people like Harry Belafonte, Professor West, and others who attack me, they don't want black people to think for themselves."
Earlier in the interview, Cain said his life story is proof that people in the black community can succeed.
"I was able to climb the corporate ladder at Pillsbury, I was able to climb the corporate ladder at Burger King. I was able to be head of Godfathers Pizza, took that company and prevented it from going bankrupt," he said. "If you put your mind to it, and you don't play the victim card, you can do whatever you want to do in this country. I am walking proof of that."
Fox News analyst Juan Williams said black leaders are targeting Cain because he runs afoul of their view of what black politicians should represent.
"They go after him with a special dash of sauce because he's a conservative, and they really can't stand black conservatives," Williams said Tuesday. "It's just, to me, evidence of how orthodox and how rigid they are in their own thinking."