The accuser at the center of a report over whether Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) campaign sought to pay African-Americans $15 a pop for their vote in the runoff of the Republican primary for U.S. Senate now says that state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s (R) communications director, Noel Fritsch, paid him to give an interview on the later disputed report on vote-buying. But the man, self-styled Reverend Stevie Fielder, said he never said that he was told to lie about his allegation.
That statement contrasts with what Attorney General Jim Hood (D) said. Hood, whose office had been investigating the reported vote-buying, said that Fielder (pictured) admitted to getting paid “$2,000 to lie.” Not so, according to Fielder.
“At no point did I admit to him that McDaniel and them paid me to lie to bring all of this stuff up like it didn’t happen,” Fielder told Mississippi Public Broadcasting. “It happened. I told the truth. Just the interview was paid, but not to lie to anyone. I was not paid to lie.”
Fielder’s comments to MPB are the latest in a confusing series of accounts and accusations about what exactly happened surrounding the report of conservative journalist Charles Johnson, who cited Fielder as his main source in a story about how the Cochran campaign tried to win by buying the votes of black voters in a runoff primary election with McDaniel.
Fielder has recently maintained that he was paid by Fritsch to give Johnson the interview where he said Saleem Baird, a staffer for Cochran’s campaign, approached him and asked him to give African-Americans $15 each for their vote if they voted for Cochran.
“He wanted me to get at least 20 of them at a time that would accept it,” Fielder said of Baird in the interview with Mississippi Public Broadcasting. “My response to them was that that was illegal.”
That contrasts with Fielder’s previous claim where he said he was paid to get African-Americans to vote for Cochran. He changed that story later on and said he was only describing a hypothetical situation.
“That’s what Noel Fritsch was paying me for to give Charles Johnson a run-through of how it would be,” Fielder told Mississippi Public Broadcasting. “A hypothetical situation so that the people would understand how the full process was working. That’s all it was. I had to put myself in the situation as if I would have actually taken the bribe to do this; what they was wanting me to do.”
The Cochran campaign has denied any involvement in the story.
Fritsch has also said that he never paid Fielder to do the interview and, instead, said that Charles Johnson paid Fielder for the texts and emails Fielder used to support his claims of the Cochran campaign trying to buy votes. Johnson has insisted that he was the only one who paid Fielder in connection to the story and that was only for the texts and emails.
“It’s utter bullshit that anyone other than me paid Fielder for his text messages,” Johnson wrote to TPM in an email.
In the Mississippi Public Broadcasting report on Tuesday, Johnson confirmed he paid Fielder $2,000 for the text messages and emails, despite telling TPM previously he didn’t want to disclose the amount because he wanted to create a “marketplace for information.”