July 2nd, 2014
06:46 PM ET
4 months ago

Cochran conference call takes bizarre turn

(CNN) - It's one of the basics of campaign communication: the conference call with reporters - where normally flacks would issue updates about events and reiterate talking points from the trail.

But Thad Cochran's campaign really could have used a mute-all function on its phone session with reporters Wednesday afternoon, as the call careened into a borderline racist verbal melee.

Supporters of Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel inundated Cochran campaign adviser Austin Barbour with questions, before one unidentified caller pivoted along racial lines.

"Quick question," began the caller. "Since black people harvested cotton, why is it OK to harvest their votes? Why is it OK to harvest the votes of black people?"

At first, Barbour paid no mind to the question.

When the caller again asked a similar question, the normally genteel campaign hand snapped.

"Sir, I don't know where you're calling from, but I'm happy to address any question, no matter the lunacy of it," Barbour said.

The Cochran campaign convened the call to push back against McDaniel's claim that the incumbent won last week's runoff election by illegally wooing Democratic and African-American voters. (Cochran himself was not on the call.)

The inquisitor didn't relent, however, asking again, "Why did you use black people? Why did you use black people to try to get Cochran elected when they're not even Republicans? You're treating them as if they're just idiots, that they'll just vote for Cochran just because they're black."

Having apparently heard enough, Barbour hung up.

From there, the call morphed into a chat-room of sorts, those remaining on the phone questioning repeatedly wondering if this was somehow President Obama's doing before playing soundboard clips of the commander-in-chief.

The sudden influx of non-media members onto the call could potentially be linked to a conservative blogger.

Charles Johnson, the political blogger who has accused the Cochran campaign and other state lawmakers of violating Mississippi election law, tweeted the details of the conference call - including the dial-in number and the passcode - to his nearly 6,000 followers shortly before the call began.

Thursday the McDaniel campaign put out a statement that did not address the racial comments.

"With the revelation of still more allegations of criminal misconduct surrounding Cochran's effort to drive ineligible voters to the polls, it's no wonder Cochran's staffers told Mississippians seeking electoral integrity to 'shut up.' Senator Cochran's campaign is in a state of wild disarray, and Sen. Cochran should return to Mississippi and take control of his campaign by addressing the allegations of criminal misconduct surrounding his campaign's strategy of pushing ineligible voters to the polls on June 24," said McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch in a statement

CNN Politics Executive Editor Mark Preston contributed to this report


Filed under: Thad Cochran
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    So basically McDaniels expected blacks in MS to sit back and allow a racist to represent them? Dude it's 2014 not 1950. I don't blame them I would have voted against him too. He's the one that acted like blacks were idiots. Cochran simply turned McDaniels hate against him. Maybe there is hope for blacks in MS.

    July 3, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  2. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Rudy NYC says:
    July 3, 2014 08:47 am at 8:47 am
    Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross…..

    And Rep. Lewis is right once again. The Civil Rights Act wouldn’t pass today if it was before Congress.
    ———————————————————————————————————-
    Wouldn’t pass? That’s not true. It wouldn’t even get a vote, not in either chamber.

    My bad Rudy! You're right. 😢 What a scary thought though. Not having basic civil rights, not being allowed to vote, having to use disgusting colored only restrooms. It's a terrifying thought. Which is why I wish I could personally thank everyone involved in the Civil Rights fight. Since I can't, Rep. Lewis is my guy. Did you see him get beat up at the lunch counter? My respect for him shot up 100 % after watching Many Rivers to cross...😍😍😍

    July 3, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  3. tru2americafirst

    So in their world, all black votes should not count I guess. What scum bags the Tea party followers are. Back woods racist mentality never wins. This IS still America and if they are as religious as they pretend, "God created ALL mankind, not only white rich guys.

    July 3, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  4. Raoul Duke, Doctor of Journalism

    Gee, sounds like a whole bunch of racists are gonna vote GOP. I am SHOCKED, I tell you.

    July 3, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    Well, we all know that Rand Paul would have made them all feel very guilty for being bigots. I guess his weapon of change is shame. Legislation? Never! That would be coercive, and we always have to give people the chance to opt out of anything they don't want to do. I wonder how that would work in the criminal justice system, giving everyone the choice of opting out? Seems as though the self-described party of personal responsibility really has no sense of it at all.

    July 3, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    My bad Rudy! You're right. 😢 What a scary thought though. Not having basic civil rights, not being allowed to vote, having to use disgusting colored only restrooms. It's a terrifying thought. Which is why I wish I could personally thank everyone involved in the Civil Rights fight. Since I can't, Rep. Lewis is my guy. Did you see him get beat up at the lunch counter? My respect for him shot up 100 % after watching Many Rivers to cross...😍😍😍
    -------------------------------------
    I remember those times quite well. I remember taking road trips, stopping to buy gas, and being prohibited from using the restroom. I can remember traveling on high school team bus hunting for a restaurant to eat in because some of the team members were black. All of this happened north of the Mason-Dixon Line. I've met and spoken to a few of principal activists from those times, too. Oh, yeah. I'd hate to see it all play itself out all over again. Those were dangerous times to a black person. I've seen it first hand.

    July 3, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  7. Raoul Duke, Doctor of Journalism

    "Cochran committed voter fraud........he paid Dems to vote in the Republican primary." Show your proof or admit you are lying. Why is it so hard to admit black people have minds of their own? And why is it so hard for you to show any respect for your fellow man? This petty meanness that has taken over the once-Grand old party is a large part of why you are losing.

    July 3, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  8. 2L

    But it was okay for Rush Limbaugh to urge Republicans to vote for Hillary? I didn't hear any backlash against him...

    July 3, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    It's hard to keep up with southern gems such as McDaniel. One day they're offering outreach, the next day they're hurling insults. I suspect it is just one more item in a very long list of items on why I can no longer grasp what it is the GOP is offering America.

    I'm beginning to wonder if I really ever did understand the Grand Old Party.

    July 3, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  10. Gurgyl

    Republican lunatics, unemployment fell to 6 percent. Is this Bush the thush credit? War drained is dems fault? Check your brains–is that degreaser, greese it. Good luck.

    July 3, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  11. Durundal

    Yep, this is about what I expected out of 'conservative values' voters. All talk, little brains, and no shame

    July 3, 2014 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  12. Raoul Duke, Doctor of Journalism

    Godwin's Law is SO convenient for the GOP. You know who they are acting like, and they know it themselves, and one day they are going to plead "I was only following orders."
    Tom Paine, it's not really fair to indict the GOP for stuff Rand Paul does, since he's a Randite anarchist pretending to be a Libertarian pretending to be a Republican. SPOILER: he's actually a rich racist cowboy.

    July 3, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  13. Raoul Duke, Doctor of Journalism

    "wonder if I really ever did understand the Grand Old Party." They divide neatly into pre-Gingrich, when they could still claim to be idealists, and post-Gingrich, when they dropped the mask of Democracy and openly began to advocate a permanent one-party system like Russia and China as the most stable and profitable form of government.
    Ironically, it seems their campaign has resulted in a permanent one-party system for the Democrats, who don't want it. And now the GOP wants us to believe they "just want the best for us" and "won't send our children to die for oil again" and they "only dislike Obama's skin color, I mean policies, policies is what we dislike, heh heh."

    July 3, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  14. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    July 3, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am
    My bad Rudy! You’re right. 😢 What a scary thought though. Not having basic civil rights, not being allowed to vote, having to use disgusting colored only restrooms. It’s a terrifying thought. Which is why I wish I could personally thank everyone involved in the Civil Rights fight. Since I can’t, Rep. Lewis is my guy. Did you see him get beat up at the lunch counter? My respect for him shot up 100 % after watching Many Rivers to cross…😍😍😍
    —————————————————————————————————————
    I remember those times quite well. I remember taking road trips, stopping to buy gas, and being prohibited from using the restroom. I can remember traveling on high school team bus hunting for a restaurant to eat in because some of the team members were black. All of this happened north of the Mason-Dixon Line. I’ve met and spoken to a few of principal activists from those times, too. Oh, yeah. I’d hate to see it all play itself out all over again. Those were dangerous times to a black person. I’ve seen it first hand.

    Wow Rudy. I always say, I came along too late. I would have loved to have been a part of the Civil Rights movement..... Which is why I'm constantly fussing at teens that don't go to school. It's like you're spitting in the faces of those that fought for your basic rights. Go to school dammit and learn!!!

    July 3, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    "All of this happened north of the Mason-Dixon Line."

    I was a child growing up in Minneapolis the early sixties, Rudy. And I remember - to a certain extent. Try as hard as I might, I can't understand why people treat one another with such hatred and superiority. I won't put you through the stuff I heard from my own parents; it still sickens me to think of it. I've tried to have conversations with my husband about racism, but he seems so insulated from everything. He was raised in rural New York, and to this day states he never really saw the impact. I don't know if he's hedging, or was so sheltered he really doesn't remember. Given my what father in law is, perhaps my husband is just too shamed to admit things that occurred in his childhood.

    Over the past decade the suburb I live in has become so diversified that we are all (blacks, whites, latino, gay, elderly, muslim) on equal footing (or so I think). And while I doubt very few of us question the diversity, I still do have members of my own extended family who insist on making catty comments when they visit.

    "I'd hate to see it all play itself out all over again. Those were dangerous times to a black person. I've seen it first hand."

    Amen, Rudy. Amen.

    July 3, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    I don't understand. Didn't the McDaniel camp have poll watchers? How come none of the poll watchers reported any cases of fraud on election day? How come first fraud allegations didn't surface until McDaniel appeared to lose? Does MS have a Voter ID law in place? Wasn't the election conducted by the Republican Party of Mississippi?

    July 3, 2014 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    "Wow Rudy. I always say, I came along too late. I would have loved to have been a part of the Civil Rights movement..... Which is why I'm constantly fussing at teens that don't go to school. It's like you're spitting in the faces of those that fought for your basic rights. Go to school dammit and learn!!!"
    -------------------------------
    Nah. You're never too late. There's always a seat at the table waiting for you.

    July 3, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  18. Rudy NYC

    "... I've tried to have conversations with my husband about racism, but he seems so insulated from everything. He was raised in rural New York, and to this day states he never really saw the impact. I don't know if he's hedging, or was so sheltered he really doesn't remember...."
    ------------------------
    It's quite likely that he didn't see very much incidents of racism because there were not many blacks living in rural New York in the 1960s. Most all lived in the major cities, and relatively few in the towns. I've encountered farmer types who rarely have cause to leave the rural areas. Everything they need to live on is within a 10-20 mile radius of where they live.

    July 3, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    "I don't understand. Didn't the McDaniel camp have poll watchers?"

    Why weren't the voter rolls checked by poll workers to confirm if Dem's had already voted in the Democratic primary thus insuring they not be given a Republican voter ballot in the run-off? Surely they should never have been given a ballot to begin with had they already voted in the Democratic primary. It would be one of the first items that McDaniel's poll watchers would have addressed prior to folks voting in the run-off.

    July 3, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  20. Dave

    Republicans are racists. Obviously.

    July 3, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  21. just asking

    Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....
    So basically McDaniels expected blacks in MS to sit back and allow a racist to represent them?
    --

    where is your proof that mcdaniel is a racist? just because the leftist democrat party generated literature saying he is to smear him and drive black democrats to vote for cochran doesn't make it fact. let's hear some concrete examples of his racism.

    the american people are getting pretty fed up with these race baiting democrat tactics. since obama got elected, it has become a non-stop stream from the democrats.

    July 3, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  22. sonny chapman

    Poetic Justice that 50 years after some real ugly times in Miss. re:Race Relations, the worm has turned. Rational Miss. Repubs. joining hands w/Black(& some white) Dems. to do what's best for most folks in their State. From a Cajun Boy, I salute you Mississippi !! All the bloodshed & tears were not in vain.

    July 3, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  23. scarhill

    Psalm 19, why Black voters? We are all voters, black, white, brown, whatever. We are all Americans and we are all voters. This is something Republicans seem incapable of recognizing.

    Regarding "their" finding that many "of these Black voters had already voted," please provide the empirical evidence. A report on Fox Noise is not evidence.

    And what does "these Black voters" really mean?

    July 3, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  24. Gary

    The only thing worse than a TeaParty winner is a TeaParty loser. We can't get rid of them after they lose. Just look at Palin, now this screwball.

    July 3, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  25. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    where is your proof that mcdaniel is a racist? just because the leftist democrat party generated literature saying he is to smear him and drive black democrats to vote for cochran doesn’t make it fact. let’s hear some concrete examples of his racism.

    the american people are getting pretty fed up with these race baiting democrat tactics. since obama got elected, it has become a non-stop stream from the democrats.

    Actually just, I googled him. I read a little, listened to him speak and his words speak for themselves. There is no reason to race bait. The American people finally have their eyes open. It's no longer hush hush, the racists came out from under their sheets in 08. The MSM tries to downplay it but it's really hard with google and YouTube. Actually just, many people that thought racism was dead, now know it's alive and kicking.

    July 3, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
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