Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) top campaign operatives hung up on numerous members of the national media after a press conference call Wednesday. The call was intended to rebut state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s campaign’s allegations of voter fraud in Mississippi’s GOP primary runoff. Instead, it turned into a circus.
“Quick question,” an unidentified man interrupted senior Cochran campaign adviser Austin Barbour on the press call.
“You’ll have an opportunity to ask a question at the end of the call,” Barbour fired back. “Listen, I will give everyone an opportunity to ask a question when we get through. We’ll be happy to answer any questions from any members of the media.”
As Barbour tried to get going again with his message, the man interrupted him again: “I’d like to know if black people were harvesting cotton, why do you think it’s okay to harvest their votes? They’re not animals. Why are you treating black people like they’re animals?”
“Sir, I don’t know where you’re calling from,” Barbour responded. “But I’m happy to address any question, no matter the lunacy of it, when we get to the end of this call.”
“Why did you use black people to try to get Cochran elected when they’re not even Republicans, and you’re treating them as if they’re just idiots because they’ll vote for Cochran just because they’re black,” the unidentified man followed up. “Why’d you harvest those votes?”
Barbour again attempted to ignore the question. “So, listen, here’s what we’re going to do,” he told the reporters on the line. “We’re going to keep trying to go through this call, and if there’s individuals who decided that they want to hijack this call, we’ll just let it get through with it and I’ll be glad to answer any of your questions.”
“I just gave you one,” the man interjected yet again. “Why do you treat black people like because they’re black they’re going to vote for Cochran?”
Seemingly unfazed, Barbour trudged onward. “So the members of the national media who participated in this call, you’ve got my cell phone and you’ve got my email address,” Barbour said. “You’ve got Jordan Russell’s cell phone and you’ve got Jordan Russell’s email. Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions. We tried to do this as a courtesy to the national media, so if you have any questions, please feel free to call us.”
At that point, one such unidentified male national reporter interjected: “One quick question–one quick legitimate question.”
“I’m sorry but the call is ending,” Barbour said, as he and Russell hung up their phones.
A female reporter then said, as Barbour hung up the phone: “Let him talk!”
“That’s why I tried to interrupt,” the thus-far unidentified reporter, who had tried to ask a “quick legitimate question,” responded.
“If you wouldn’t have interrupted he wouldn’t have ended it,” the female reporter responded.
“He was ending it,” the male reporter said.
“But we were all listening,” the female reporter replied. “We were all listening, and you were being rude.”
“I wasn’t the one that was saying stuff about cotton,” the male reporter retorted. “I didn’t say a word until just now.”
For the next nearly ten minutes, several senior national media reporters remained on the line discussing what just happened with each other–in seeming disbelief.
“I don’t know who’s all on this phone call, but if you consider yourself to be a responsible member of the media, learn how to conduct yourself when a political campaign is holding a conference call,” one male national reporter said. “Give the man a chance to answer your question at the end of his presentation.”
Reporters discussed who they thought the unidentified man who asked the cotton question was, and one threw out the suggestion that it was independent journalist Charles C. Johnson–the man behind a series of mischievous stories in Mississippi–but then another reporter interjected: “No, it was not Chuck Johnson.”
While Johnson didn’t ask those questions, he did tweet out details of the conference call, including the call-in number and passcode.
Another reporter suggested it was a McDaniel supporter: “If he was a Chris supporter, he didn’t do Chris any favors.”
Reporters discussed that for about another minute, before another reporter then jumped in and said, “Who knows, it could have been a plant? It could have been a Cochran campaign plant.”
A second reporter concurred: “Yeah, it could have been that too.”
Reporters who were on the call include this reporter, Johnson, a woman from the Wall Street Journal, a woman from the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times‘ Jonathan Weisman, The Daily Caller’s Alex Pappas, reporters from Politico, and scores of other media outlets.
The McDaniel campaign seized on the happenings with the call to note that the Cochran campaign seems to be in “disarray.” McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch told Breitbart News:
With the allegations of criminal misconduct surrounding Cochran’s Democrat effort piling up, it’s no wonder his campaign is in a state of wild disarray. The Republican party in Mississippi should have no problem speaking up and fighting to maintain electoral integrity and championing conservative, Republican values. Sadly, though, the Cochran campaign needed over 40,000 votes from liberal Democrats to win a Republican primary, which might explain why they’re not so keen on championing conservative, Republican values.
The McDaniel campaign also called on Sen. Cochran himself–not political consultants working for him–to step up and address these matters.
“It’s time for Thad Cochran to return to Mississippi to take control of his campaign to address the allegations of criminal conduct surrounding his questionable strategy of acquiring votes from Democrats,” Fritsch said.
After the call, Russell tweeted out two separate statements: “Legitimate members of the media that were not able to be at the press conference in Jackson, you know where to find us if you need us,” he tweeted, adding: “The plus side of that episode is now the national media sees what type of people we have to deal with day to day.”
An audio recording of the call can be heard below: