NPR logo How Cain's 'Smoking Video' Propelled Anonymous Aide To Internet Fame

How Cain's 'Smoking Video' Propelled Anonymous Aide To Internet Fame

Just before Herman Cain spoke at the National Press Club luncheon Monday, his chief of staff Mark Block chatted about the strange fame that has changed his life in recent days.

Earlier this month, Block was standing outside of the Encore Hotel in Las Vegas, taking a smoke break following a GOP presidential candidate debate. Another campaign worker with a camera suggested they make a quick video to thank their candidate's supporters.

The web video was never intended to be a campaign ad, just a thank-you shout out to online visitors, he said. So Block kept smoking while the video was rolling. "It was a split-second decision to do the video," he said. "It cost about $4 to make."

But the minute-long video, which ends with Block blowing smoke and then Cain smiling, went viral on the Internet. TV reporters started showing it on news programs. Pundits began pondering the subliminal messages. Block said he has heard as many as 20 million people have seen the video on the news or the Internet.

Block said he just wanted a smoke. And now, when he steps outside, "people ask me to autograph their cigarettes," he said.