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Thad Cochran campaign accused in bizarre press call of ‘harvesting black votes’

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A conference call set up by Sen. Thad Cochran's campaign camp took a turn to the bizarre, after a caller who identified on Twitter as a freelance journalist broke in to repeatedly ask: Why was the candidate's camp "harvesting black votes?"

The Blaze reported the caller as a freelancer who actually planned the conference call query, putting out on Twitter the message: "Press conference details... Crash it with me in fifteen minutes? Call is 3 PM CST. Tuesday Call in number: 530-881-1000." The tweeted message also included the PIN to access the call.

The conference call was arranged by Mr. Cochran's campaign to address just that point — the accusations that have been slung in recent days that the senator's campaign team actually paid $15 each to black voters to support him in the runoff against Chris McDaniel, The Hill reported. Mr. Cochran's team has repeatedly denied the charge.

Campaign adviser Austin Barbour tried to explain the situation in the conference call, ultimately opening the lines up for questioning from reporters. But he was repeatedly interrupted by one caller who spoke of how "black people harvested cotton" followed by the query of why Mr. Cochran's people were "harvesting black voters," The Hill reported.

The caller also reportedly said: "I'd like to know if the black people were harvesting cotton, why do you think it's OK to harvest their votes? They're not animals — why are you treating black people like they're just votes?"

Mr. Barbour tried to steer the conversation back on track, saying that he'd be "happy to address any question, no matter the lunacy," but was cut off again, The Hill reported.

The caller continued, the newspaper reported: "Why did you use black people? Why did you use black people to get Cochran elected when they're not even Republicans, and you're treating them as if they're just idiots, that they'll vote for Cochran just because they're black?"

Mr. Cochran has claimed he won last week's election, but Mr. McDaniel has not yet conceded, and his campaign says they may contest the race. Part of their investigation has revealed that several who voted in the Democratic primary then turned around and voted in the Republican runoff, in violation of state law.

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