- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2011

Republican presidential front-runner Herman Cain, saying he wanted to clear up previously contradictory comments on abortion, said Sunday that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake.

“I am pro-life from conception. Period,” the Georgia businessman said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Mr. Cain has been under fire from some of his rivals in the Republican presidential field - especially former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a pro-life champion - after Mr. Cain said abortion was a “choice.”

In an interview two weeks ago on CNN, Mr. Cain said that ending a pregnancy caused by rape or incest is a decision that “ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make.”

He then told Fox News that abortion should not be legal, but a family could make the decision to break the law.

Those comments created an opening for pro-life rivals, with Mr. Santorum saying he was surprised to learn that one of the Republican front-runners was “pro-choice.”

On Sunday, Mr. Cain said those comments were taken out of context. His stand on abortion, he said, is straightforward and makes no allowance for exceptions in cases of rape or incest. He also stood by his comments, made earlier in the campaign, that Planned Parenthood is really “planned genocide” directed at the black community.

“Seventy-five percent of [Planned Parenthood] facilities were built in the black community,” he said.

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO also distanced himself, after a bit of a lecture from “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer, from the Web-only ad that has gone viral featuring his campaign manager, Mark Block, who is shown in the clip taking an oddly conspicuous draw on a cigarette.

“Smoking is not cool,” Mr. Cain said after Mr. Schieffer questioned what sort of message the ad sent to young people.

Mr. Cain, who has survived liver and colon cancer, said the ad was intended to present an honest, unvarnished portrait of his campaign manager - who happens to be a smoker.

“Let Herman be Herman. Let Mark be Mark. Let people be people,” Mr. Cain said. “This wasn’t intended to send any subliminal signal whatsoever.”

He said the video was meant to be informative and funny, but he admitted that his sense of humor may be causing him problems on the campaign trail.

“I will tone down the sense of humor - until I become president, because America needs to get a sense of humor,” he said.

The one-time long-shot candidate, who has surfed a wave of tea party and populist support to the front of the Republican pack, announced over the weekend that he will “dial back” a demanding campaign schedule, which he has blamed for some of his misstatements and contradictions.