Prankster interrupts Cochran campaign press call

jphampton@sunherald.comJuly 2, 2014 

A Twitter prank derailed a conference call with Sen. Thad Cochran's campaign Wednesday before reporters were able to ask a single question.

Campaign adviser Austin Barbour was briefing reporters via teleconference on the campaign's contention Chris McDaniel supporters are exaggerating the number of problematic votes they found in the Senate runoff.

A rude interruption

But blogger Charles Johnson had tweeted the teleconference number and urged his followers to crash it. A caller, who didn't identify himself, interrupted Barbour, asking: "Why is it OK to harvest the votes of the black people?" Johnson later insisted on Twitter he was the one asking the question.

The McDaniel campaign has been trying to show residents who voted in the Democratic primary June 3 had returned June 24 and illegally voted in the GOP runoff. Barbour had pointed out McDaniel's allies claimed 190 votes at the Fondren Presbyterian Church polling place were questionable. Barbour said only 25 people voted in the Democratic primary so there couldn't be more illegal votes than that. He said the same thing happened at Eastover precinct.

"The numbers just don't make sense," Barbour said.

"Black people were harvesting cotton," the caller interrupted again, "why do you think it's OK to harvest their votes? They're not animals."

Barbour again asked him to hold the questions until the end of his presentation.

The caller interrupted two more times and Barbour said the members of the media could call or email him or campaign spokesman Jordan Russell, then he hung up.

Pointing fingers

But a lot of those listening on the conference call didn't. They proceeded to argue about who caused the call to end and whether the questioner was a plant for McDaniel or Cochran.

Johnson already had left the call for Twitter, where he doubled down on his prank and tweeted Russell's cellphone number.

"I'm just glad the media got to see what I have to go through every day," Russell said.

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