vSen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) confirmed on Wednesday evening that he is still unaware of the five-year-old Tea Party movement that has rocked U.S. politics, including the U.S. Senate in which he has served for 36 years.
“I said I didn’t know much about the Tea Party, and I didn’t,” Cochran said on WXXV television in Mississippi on Wednesday evening. “I heard…I read newspaper articles about them, and that’s about all I knew. It’s kind of like Will Rogers, you know. He said he knew what was in the papers.”
Cochran was referring to comments he made a month ago when, referring to the Tea Party, he told WAPT NBC News in Mississippi, “That is something I don’t know a lot about.”
Will Rogers–the icon Cochran cited–was one of the world’s most famous movie stars in the 1920s and 1930s. Beginning around 1915, before Hollywood noticed him in 1918 and turned him into a movie star, he was a vaudeville stage comedian. “Well, what shall I talk about? I ain’t got anything funny to say. All I know is what I read in the papers,” Rogers would say when he took the stage, before making jokes about the news of the day in the 1910s.
Cochran was born in 1937, two years after Rogers’ 1935 death. He has served in the U.S. Senate for 36 years and in the U.S. Congress for 42 years. He was first elected to the Senate in 1977 and has been serving since 1978, after three terms in the House.
Cochran’s unawareness of the Tea Party movement comes as he is facing a primary challenger from its ranks, two-term State Sen. Chris McDaniel. McDaniel has the support of Tea Party leaders like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, radio host Mark Levin, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Club for Growth, and various others.
Meanwhile, Cochran’s alliances span outward largely from his close relationship with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Barbour’s Godfather-esque stronghold on the state’s political process. Barbour and his family are openly backing Cochran against McDaniel and the Tea Party movement, sparking an open war in the southern state between the two factions of the GOP–establishment and grassroots–that are fighting for control of the party’s future.
McDaniel, for his part, ripped Cochran for being out of touch because of his unawareness of the Tea Party movement for five years. “After 40 years in Washington, it is sad to see Sen. Cochran more familiar with his lobbyist friends than the conservative folks here in Mississippi,” McDaniel said in a statement. “If Sen. Cochran wants to learn about the conservative tea party movement, he should join me at one of my town hall meetings and actually get to know the folks who make our state and Republican Party great.”
WATCH: Cochran reaffirms his unawareness of the Tea Party movement: