In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Press Call Ambushed By Caller Who Asked If Cochran 'Harvested' Votes From 'Blacks Picking Cotton' (AUDIO)

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AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis

The call was hosted by Cochran campaign adviser Austin Barbour and spokesman Jordan Russell. It was meant for national media who couldn't attend an earlier in-person press conference where the Cochran campaign called on state Sen. Chris McDaniel's (R) campaign to substantiate claims of finding widespread voter fraud in the runoff election between McDaniel and Cochran (which Cochran won).

Shortly before the call, obscure conservative blogger Chuck Johnson, who published a story recently alleging that the Cochran campaign was buying black votes at $15 a pop, said he would be joining the call and invited others to do the same.

Once the call got underway, one of the participants in a male-sounding voice kept asking about "blacks picking Cotton" and asked if the Cochran campaign was "harvesting" African-Americans votes. The caller did not introduce himself and repeatedly tried to talk over Barbour.

"Why is it okay to harvest the votes of black people?" the caller asked.

"Alright so listen I will give everybody a chance to answer a question when we get through and we'll be happy to answer any question from members of the media," Barbour said at first.

"I'd like to know if the black people were harvesting cotton why do you think it's okay to harvest their votes?" the caller asked again. "They're not animals, why're you treating black people like they're just votes?"

"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 before being cut off.

"It's not lunacy. Why did you use black people? Why did you use black people to get Cochran elected when they're not even Republicans and you're treating them as if they're just idiots that they'll vote for Cochran just because they're black," the caller said.

Barbour said someone was trying to hijack the call and shortly thereafter ended the call.

After the call ended some of the callers stayed on the phone.

"We were all listening and you were being rude," another caller, a woman, said to another caller.

After the call, Johnson tweeted that it wasn't him who asked the question.

During the call, TPM asked if anyone knew who the one was who was asking the question but nobody answered.

"If he was a Chris supporter he didn't do Chris any favors," one caller who stayed on the call said.

"Who knows, it coulda been a McDaniel campaign plant," a caller said.

Near the end of the call someone still on the call said "maybe it was Obama."

Later on another voice on the call said "McDaniel supporters hang up the phone now."

Barbour, in an interview with TPM after the call, said he didn't believe Johnson's claim that it wasn't him.

"Just BS," Barbour said. "I don't even know who the guy is. I don't know him…He certainly does not come across as reputable in any certain way but I don't even know who the guy is. But obviously if you've got a few thousand followers and you tweet out a conference call number that's going to cause a disruption."

Barbour said the campaign wouldn't try to do another conference call and instead just talk with members of the media individually.

Johnson later tweeted out the cell phone number for Russell.

"Here's Jordan Russell's cell number. You're "legitimate media," aren't you? XXX XXX XXXX #mssen

You can listen to the audio of the call below. Barbour is interrupted around 8:30 in the audio:

About The Author

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Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper's Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.