HERNANDO, Mississippi — The Senate GOP primary has been a wild ride, but few moments have been as wacky as this one.
When a top Mississippi Democrat accused Lane “L.C.” Murray in a Facebook post of using shady tactics to help Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Murray purportedly left a threatening voicemail to a Republican state senator who posted about the matter on Twitter. But in a phone interview, Murray, who was formerly a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan, says he actually supports Cochran’s challenger, state senator Chris McDaniel, and isn’t backing Cochran at all.
The saga began when state Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole said Murray is part of a group of Democratic operatives being paid to get out the vote for Cochran by targeting Democratic voters and using “walking around money” to incentivize turnout.
Then State Sen. Tony Smith posted a screenshot of the Facebook message from Cole raising the allegations on Twitter, prompting Murray to call Smith.
“Tony, this is Lane Murray again–you just hung that dang phone up on me,” Murray says in the voicemail, an audio recording of which was obtained by Breitbart. “You want me to come down there and shove it up your ass? You better get your ass back on that telephone and you better get that shit retracted–what you said I was doing. You understand this don’t you? I know where Picayune, Mississippi, is you son of a bitch. You better get that shit straight on my name.”
Reached by phone early Friday afternoon, Murray says he didn’t threaten Smith–just promised he would beat him up if he didn’t retract a screenshot of Cole’s claims about Murray.
“I didn’t threaten him, I promise. I’m one of your people,” Murray said. “That son of a bitch put something on the blog that wasn’t true about me and I called him and he wanted to be smartass and I didn’t threaten him–I promised to whoop his ass if he didn’t retract what wasn’t true. Now it went viral and he told a lie about me that wasn’t true.”
Later in the interview, Murray did apologize to Smith for the tone of his message.
“I never knew Tony Smith until the other day, and I know everybody in Mississippi,” Murray said. “He hung up on me. What I had tried to tell him is he and I may be on the same side and he put some trash out on me that’s not true. He didn’t want to listen. He wanted to get smart, so I got smart back with him. I apologize for that, but what would you have done if someone put a bald-faced lie that’s going all over the nation about you?”
Murray said he was trying to correct an allegation about him he says just isn’t true. Murray also said he’s a supporter of McDaniel–something he’s never been public about.
“You don’t tweet out something that you don’t verify to be true–at least that I know,” Murray said. “I’m one of your people, there son. I’m one of your people.”
“I’m not publicly [for McDaniel but I am for McDaniel], but I’ve known Thad Cochran for a long time and I’ve known Chris McDaniel for a long time,” Murray added. “I can tell you this, too: Thad’s going to get his butt beat in this race.”
Murray, an ex-Klansman from Natchez, works as a political gun for hire in Jackson, Mississippi. He’s a longtime activist with ties in both parties.
“L. C. Murray of Natchez, Miss., was an outspoken Klansmen in the 1960s, attending banquets and rallies across Louisiana and Mississippi as ‘grand kligrapp,’ the state secretary for the United Klans of America (UKA),” an LSU student wrote in a piece published by the CBS News affiliate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2012.
Murray confirmed his Ku Klux Klan ties to Breitbart News, but refused to discuss the details of it.
“Years and years, ago. Yes sir,” he said when asked to confirm he was once a high-profile member of the KKK.
“You already know about that–no need to go into it,” Murray said when asked for details on his KKK work.
Cole, the state’s Democratic Party chairman, wrote in a Facebook message earlier this week that Pete Perry, the chairman of the Hinds County Republican Party, “is paying James ‘Scooby Doo’ Warren thousands of dollars to funnel to black preachers and others to get-out-the-vote for Cochran.”
“He is working with Lane (LC) Murray and probably also Greg Brand,” Cole added in his message.
“Large sums of cash are being passed around. These guys are old school ‘walking around money’ vote buyers,” Cole wrote.
In an interview with Breitbart News, Perry denied directly giving money to James “Scooby Doo” Warren, and said he hoped the money from a super PAC backing Cochran routed through a company he controls wasn’t being used to pay people to vote. But Perry wouldn’t explain where the $60,000 from the super PAC had gone, and “Scooby Doo” later confirmed to the Clarion-Ledger he was being paid to help Cochran campaign with Democrats.
On Friday morning, black Mississippi conservative radio host Kim Wade of WYAB posted on Facebook that many black pastors throughout the state are “on the take.”
“Ok, here the going rate being paid by the GOP for cross over votes Tues,” Wade wrote. “The bag man is dispensing $5000 a pop. Their contact will pay the pastor $2000 cash if instruction to go out and vote for Thad comes from the pulpit. $1000 cash to the pastor if the pastor allows a 3rd party to make the appeal. Individuals are to be offered $25.00 to vote. Most of that money is usually kept by the pastor and his money contact and they just make the appeal to their members.
“So if you get the appeal this Sunday. You can take it to the bank your pastor is on the take. If your pastor will take money under the table. He’ll take it off the top of the table.”
Murray said he’s definitely not involved in the Democrat GOTV strategy for Cochran at all. “No sir, no sir.”
Many McDaniel supporters and conservative leaders have called for the state GOP to intervene to stop Cochran’s supporters from trying to bring Democrats into the GOP primary. Ex-Department of Justice Civil Rights Division attorney J. Christian Adams told Breitbart News it’s illegal for Democrats to vote in the GOP primary, or vice versa, if those voters do not intend to support that candidate in the general election in November. The brouhaha has sparked state GOP chairman Joe Nosef to denounce anyone who tries to buy votes–and call for only Republicans who intend to support the GOP nominee in November to vote in Tuesday’s runoff.