Charles Johnson, the feisty conservative journalist who’s been the driving force behind the allegations of a vote-buying scheme in Mississippi’s Republican runoff, responded Wednesday to the latest twist from the self-proclaimed pastor who levied the bribery charges.
A spokesperson for Mississippi’s Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood told the Clarion-Ledger this week that the man, Stevie Fielder, informed investigators that he was paid by a staffer for tea party upstart state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) to give an interview about the alleged vote-buying.
A Meridian, Miss. resident who styles himself as a pastor, Fielder was the source for an article that ran on Johnson’s website, GotNews.com, last month shortly after the runoff.
In the article, Fielder claimed that he was given thousands of dollars by the campaign for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), who won the contentious runoff over McDaniel, to dole out to black voters. According to Fielder’s original account, the money was provided by Cochran staffer Saleem Baird and the incumbent’s campaign offered $15 per black voter.
The Cochran camp denied the charges, and Fielder subsequently changed his story, saying that he was asked to participate in the vote-buying but declined “because that’s illegal.”
And now Fielder is pointing his finger at Noel Fritsch, a McDaniel spokesperson, as the individual who paid him to give the interview to Johnson.
Fritsch told TPM in an email on Wednesday that it was Johnson who “paid for the texts & emails Cochran/Wicker staffer Saleem Baird sent that prove Cochran bought Democrat votes.”
Johnson, for his part, has always acknowledged that he paid Fielder for the story, but the Clarion-Ledger’s Sam R. Hall noted Wednesday that it hasn’t always been clear what exactly Johnson got out of the transaction.
“At different times on social media, [Johnson] has claimed to have paid for just text messages and not the full interview, while at other times he has said he paid for the interview as well,” wrote Hall, who’s currently facing a legal threat from Johnson.
Johnson told TPM in an email on Wednesday that he, and he alone, paid Fielder for the texts.
“It’s utter bullshit that anyone other than me paid Fielder for his text messages,” Johnson wrote.
When TPM followed-up to ask if the source may have been paid separately for the text messages and the interview, Johnson took a shot at Hall and defended his decision to pay Fielder.
Johnson also said that journalist Matthew Boyle, his former colleague at The Daily Caller who now writes for Breitbart, “confirmed” Fielder’s account.
Please print the following:
Once again, Sam Hall, who formerly was executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party, doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
I alone paid Rev. Fielder for his text messages. He could have left but he didn’t after the money changed hands. He spoke to me multiple times on different occasions and his story was confirmed by Matthew Boyle at Breitbart News.
I don’t discuss how much I paid Rev. Fielder because I don’t want to create a market for information. There’s a long history of sources being paid for their information. Law enforcement, TMZ, the Daily Mail, Oprah, David Frost have all paid sources for interviews or information. I find the practice more honorable than paying them in the form of expensive dinners, access, or more intangible goods.