Cain gets a scolding from Bob Schieffer for smoke-filled video

Herman Cain hit the viral jackpot this week with an unconventional internet ad starring campaign manager Mark Block speaking -- and smoking -- directly into the camera. But at least one person isn’t amused: CBS’ Bob Schieffer.

Cain appeared on Schieffer’s “Face the Nation” program Sunday, and a discussion about the buzz-generating video soon shifted to a lecture by the host about the perils of making smoking look “cool.”

Here’s the transcript of the exchange:

Schieffer: Mr. Cain, I just have to ask you, what is the point of that? Having a man smoke a cigarette in a television commercial?

Cain: One of the themes within this campaign is let Herman be Herman. Mark Block is a smoker and we say let Mark be Mark. That’s all we’re trying to say because we believe let people be people. He doesn’t deny that he’s a smoker. This isn’t trying.

Schieffer: Are you a smoker?

Cain: No, I’m not a smoker. But I don’t have a problem if that’s his choice. So let Herman be Herman, let Mark be Mark, let people be people. This wasn’t intended to send any subliminal signal whatsoever.


Schieffer: But it does. It sends a signal that it’s cool to smoke.

Cain: No it does not. Mark Block smokes. That’s all that ad says. We weren’t trying to say it’s cool to smoke. You have a lot of people in this country that smoke. But what I respect about Mark as a smoker, who is my chief of staff, he never smokes around me or smokes around anyone else. He goes outside.

Schieffer: Well, he smokes on television.

Cain: Well he smokes on television but that was no other subliminal message.

Schieffer: Was it meant to be funny?

Cain: It was meant to be informative. If they listen to the message where he said, “America has never seen another candidate like Herman Cain,” that was the main point of it. And the bit on the end we didn’t know whether it was going to be funny to some people. Whether they were going to ignore it or whatever the case may be.

Schieffer: Let me just tell you, it’s not funny to me. I am a cancer survivor like you. I had cancer that was smoking related. I don’t think it serves the country well. And this is an editorial opinion here to be showing someone smoking a cigarette. You are the front-runner now and it seems to me that as the front-runner you would have a responsibility not to take that kind of a tone here. I would suggest that perhaps as the front-runner you’d want to raise the level of the campaign.

A truce soon followed when Cain agreed to promote Schieffer’s anti-smoking message.

“Young people of America, all people: Do not smoke. It is hazardous and it is dangerous to your health. Don’t smoke. I’ve never smoked and I’ve encouraged people not to smoke,” Cain said.

“And it’s not a cool thing to do,” Schieffer added.

“It’s not a cool thing to do,” Cain responded. “And that’s not what I was trying to say. Smoking is not a cool thing to do.”

Below is the campaign ad featuring Block: