The campaign of Republican Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran attempted to hold a conference call with the media on Wednesday, but was forced to cancel it midway through after someone hijacked the call with provocative questions about race.
Cochran adviser Austin Barbour had been giving remarks to reporters for about seven minutes during the call when an unnamed person interrupted and started asking questions.
“I’d like to know if black people were harvesting cotton, why do you think it’s ok to harvest their votes?” the activist said. “They’re not animals.”
Barbour told the activist he would answer questions after he was done giving his statement.
“If the individuals who’ve decided that they want to hijack this call will just let us get through with it, I’ll be glad to answer any of the questions,” Barbour said.
But after the person continued asking the same version of the question several more times, Barbour said he would kill the call and instructed journalists to contact him directly.
It was not immediately known who the questioner was. But prior to the call, McDaniel supporter Charles C. Johnson — who published a story Wednesday accusing Cochran’s campaign of buying off black voters — tweeted out details on how people could access the conference call.
Press conference details… Crash it with me in fifteen minutes? Call is 3 PM CST Tuesday Call in number: 530-881-1000. PIN: 287517# #mssen
— Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) July 2, 2014
Cochran defeated conservative State Sen. Chris McDaniel in a run-off last month, likely with the help of black Democrats who crossed party lines in the state’s open primary to defeat the tea party favorite.
Earlier this week, his campaign denied Johnson’s report that they bought the votes of black Democrats for $15 a piece in last month’s contentious GOP run-off, though acknowledged they had a working relationship with the man who made the allegations against them at Johnson’s website. Johnson has acknowledged paying the man for his interview.
The conference call Tuesday was packed with journalists from a number of outlets, including The Daily Caller.
A number of reporters expressed annoyance when the call was cancelled.
“I don’t know who is on his 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 phone call,” one reporter said at the end of the call. “You give the man a chance to answer your question. At the end of his presentation.”