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Thad Cochran press call interrupted by heckler

"Why do you use black people to try to get Cochran when they're not even Republicans?" the heckler said. "You're treating them as if they're just idiots that they'll vote for Cochran just because they're black."

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Gabrielle Levy
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. UPI/Ron Sachs /Pool
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. UPI/Ron Sachs /Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, July 3 (UPI) -- A conference call hosted by Sen. Thad Cochran's campaign got hijacked when a caller interrupted Cochran's campaign manager Austin Barbour with questions about "harvesting black people."

Barbour spent the first seven minutes of the call addressing -- and dismissing -- claims of voting irregularities from state Sen. Chris McDaniel's campaign, and repeatedly reminding people on the call to put their phones on mute.

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California-based blogger Charles C. Johnson, who claims he spoke to a pastor who said he helped pay people to vote for Cochran, published details of the call ahead of time. So instead of a typical press call, with practiced reporters waiting to take their turn at the end of the presentation, Barbour had to contend with a barking dog, laughter and other background noise.

Then, around the eighth minute, an unidentified caller began interrupting Barbour's statement.

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"Quick question, quick question. Since black people were harvesting cotton, is it ok to harvest their votes?" he said. "Why is it ok to harvest the votes of black people?"

For several moments, Barbour tried to ask the interrupter to allow him to finish his statement, then he would take questions, but no sooner would he begin speaking than he would again get interrupted.

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"Sir, I don't know where you're calling from, but I'm happy to address any question, no matter the lunacy of it, at some point in time in this call," Barbour said.

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"Why did you use black people? Why do you use black people to try to get Cochran when they're not even Republicans?" the heckler pressed on. "You're treating them as if they're just idiots that they'll vote for Cochran just because they're black. That's ridiculous. Why did you harvest black votes?"

After several more interruptions, Barbour gave up.

"So the members of the national media who participated in this call, you've got my cell phone, you've got my email address," he said. "Please, please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions. We tried to do this as a courtesy to the national media who could not be in Jackson today for our press conference."

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Before Barbour hung up, another person, who later identified himself as a reporter, tried to squeeze in a question, but only proceeded to anger other reporters, who thought he was the same person as the interrupter.

Several reporters who were on the call seemed certain the interrupter was not Johnson, with one even speculating he was planted by the Cochran campaign to make McDaniel look bad.

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Johnson also denied he was the interrupter on Twitter.

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After most of the reporters signed off, someone asked if McDaniel supporters were on the call. Several identified themselves, and agreed the caller did "not do Chris McDaniel any favors."

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"He was making us look like uneducated asses," one woman said. "I'm sorry, that's point blank of it. He's making everybody from Mississippi look like an uneducated ass. He's talking about issues that aren't even pertinent anymore."

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