OTR Interviews

Cain: Rev. Jeremiah Wright-Obama connection still 'fair game' in presidential campaign, not racist

Should a reported plan to fund a series of ads linking the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and President Obama even be an issue in the 2012 presidential race?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 17, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, he's back! If you thought that Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy ended in the 2008 election, you were so wrong! Do you remember this?


REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: Who cares about what a poor black man has to face every day in a country and a culture controlled by rich white people? Somebody missed that. You got nervous because we got some white members here. I am still in Bible country. I am still in the text. Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country and who lived in a culture that was controlled by rich white people!


VAN SUSTEREN: Here we go again. This time, Republican strategists proposed an ad campaign to a super PAC connected to conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts. The focus, political ads throwing Reverend Wright right back in the spotlight, Governor Romney quickly repudiating the strategy, and the super-PAC then releasing a statement on Mr. Ricketts's behalf saying, in part, "Not only was this plan merely a proposal, one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors, but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects, and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take."

So it looks like we'll never see that ad. But does that even matter? People are already buzzing about the president's former pastor.

Joining us is former presidential candidate Herman Cain. Nice to see you, Mr. Cain.

HERMAN CAIN, FORMER GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, Greta. Happy to be here. Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Glad to have you here. OK, first of all, is it fair to in any way tie President Obama to Reverend Jeremiah Wright? Our is that old and he's distant from him and it's really -- this is just a -- just an effort to sort of dirty up the president?

CAIN: I think that it's an effort to sort of muddy the water. But I think it is fair if someone wants to highlight the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his relationship with Barack Obama because, quite frankly, it wasn't highlighted enough in 2008 when he was running for president the first time.

The second point I'd like to make -- I know Joe Ricketts. Joe Ricketts would not spend a total of $10 million on that one issue. Joe Ricketts is concerned more about the fiscal security of this country.

So as he said in the statement, it was a proposal, but the proposal didn't go anywhere. But it is fair game.

And the reason -- the third reason that it's fair game is that if this administration, which has been shown to go after people who donate to Mitt Romney and try and slander their reputation, then, yes, it is fair game. I don't think it is off-limits. But I don't believe Joe Ricketts would put that much money into just this one angle of a presidential campaign.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one of the considerations, one of the thoughts is that no one wants to be tagged or be racist towards the president. Is bringing this up -- does it have that because a lot of people are going do say that it is. You say that it's fair and it's relevant. But then we got the second consideration. Where do we draw the line? How do we know when something is racist and when something is fair for discussion?

CAIN: Greta, the reason that the liberals are going to call it racist is because President Obama is black and Jeremiah Wright is black. They're going to call it racist. It is not racist! They hide behind the race card any time that someone wants to attack the president on grounds that he would freely and liberally attack somebody else.

So no, I just -- I don't think that it is racist simply because they are going to bring it up. It's fact. It's truth. So why not expose the truth? Because the president, as you know, back in 2008, denied and disowned Jeremiah Wright, when, in fact, how could he have been in his church for 20 years and not assimilated some of the things that he was talking about?

So no, it is not racist. It's just that the liberals want to play the race card when it is convenient.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did you wait until yesterday to endorse Governor Romney?

CAIN: It's real simple. I wanted to -- waited to endorse Governor Romney yesterday because I wanted to wait until it was appropriate to try and enhance unity. In order for the Republicans to win, we're going to have to come together as a party.

Yes, I endorsed the American people first. Then I endorsed Newt Gingrich. And yesterday, I officially endorsed Governor Romney because I did not want to be viewed as someone who might be trying to wait to disrupt the convention in Tampa in August.

I want to promote unity, not disruption. So I just wanted to clear the table and make sure that everybody understood that as I have stated all along, I will support the eventual nominee, and that nominee is going to be Governor Romney. And I just wanted to make it clear that I was solidly behind him in order to make him president of the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so it's clear that you're supporting the Republican nominee. You've thrown your support behind Governor Romney. What is it that -- what is the reason why you don't support President Obama? What's the difference between the two parties, the two candidates as we approach November?

CAIN: Here again, it's real simple. Governor Romney gets it right on the big issues. President Obama get its wrong on the big issues.

Governor Romney understands what it's going to take to boost this economy to a growth rate that this economy is capable of. No policies of Governor -- of President Obama have boosted the economy. We are now at something less than 2 percent. That's not what our economy is capable of.

Governor Romney get its right on energy independence. He knows and has stated that we can maximize all of our energy resources in this country to become energy-independent. Everything that President Obama does seems to be opposite of that.

And then the other thing that Governor Romney get it right on is he wants to repeal "Obama care." He has stated it and he's serious about it and he is serious about leading the effort to repeal "Obama care" because it is the wrong solution, whereas President Obama obviously wants to continue to try and roll it out.

So there is a vast difference between what Governor Romney gets right, which are on the big issues, and President Obama gets wrong.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you spoken to the campaign and made any sort of plans with them in terms of what you think you can do to aid the Republican ticket? Do you intend to hit the road for them? Any plans at all, any specific plans?

CAIN: Yes. There are two suggestions that I made to the governor when I met with him a couple of weeks ago. Number one, I have volunteered to assist him and his team on sharpening his message, and they have already started to implement some of those suggestions.

Secondly, I have volunteered to focus on helping to energize the youth vote. Greta, within the last several months, I have spent a lot of time speaking at college campuses. In fact, I have spoken at over 15 college campuses to the Young Republicans on college campuses around the country about conservative values and about the fact that Washington is broken and that this nation is broke and that they can help fix it.

And I have been just absolutely amazed at the response that I have gotten. The young people and the young vote have been very enthusiastic, and I believe that they are going to be a key into winning in November. And I've been focusing on trying to energize the youth vote for this election coming up.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the African-American vote, which is typically is a vote that goes -- that skews to the Democratic Party? Do you have any sort of intention -- can you capture some of the African-American party? Can you -- in any way for Governor Romney?

CAIN: Absolutely. When I was still a candidate, I believed that I had gotten the attention of a lot of African-Americans and a lot of black voters. And it was because of my message. It was because of the clarity of my message.

And even as I travel today, I'm still very warmly received by many blacks and African-Americans that I run into in airports and restaurants, or whatever the case may be, because they are starting to think differently.

One of the greatest things, Greta, was, for example, I was substituting for Neal Boortz today on his syndicated radio show, which covers 220 stations across the country. And I have people call up who will say to me -- and this is what I appreciate -- You know, you're causing me to think about things differently.

The mere fact that I'm out here promoting conservative values and I'm promoting fiscal responsibility, enforcing the Constitution and I'm promoting the free market system, that's causing a lot of African-Americans to think about and look at what the Republican Party has to offer. And that's what I'm continuing to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Cain, thank you. Hope you'll join us again soon. Thank you, sir.

CAIN: It's my pleasure. Thank you, Greta.