Scandal

08.06.14

New Bribery Claims In Mississippi Senate Race

A man who accused Senator Thad Cochran of engaging in voter fraud now claims that he was bribed by Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel.

Just like a Law & Order episode, the Mississippi Senate race has featured felonies, courtroom drama, lies, and deceit. Also, just like a Law & Order episode, it seems to be ending with a twist that you’d never expect. 

The claims of Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel that six-term incumbent Thad Cochran somehow stole the Republican Senate runoff in June have always centered on the accusation that the Cochran campaign paid a Meridian man named Stevie Fielder to buy votes of African-American Democrats at $15 a head. However, a spokesperson for the Mississippi Attorney General told local reporters on Tuesday night that Fielder was actually bribed by Noel Fritsch, McDaniel’s communications director, to lie about vote buying and implicate Cochran.

The story, first reported by WJTV, the CBS affiliate in Jackson, comes only one day after McDaniel announced he would sue to overturn the election result in order to have himself declared the winner.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Fritsch denied the accusation. “[Conservative blogger] Charles Johnson paid for the texts & emails Cochran/Wicker staffer Saleem Baird sent that prove Cochran bought Democrat votes,” said the McDaniel staffer.

Johnson, best known for authoring discredited stories for The Daily Caller, first reported Fielder’s claim a week after the primary runoff and it has fueled the outrage by diehard McDaniel supporters in the aftermath of the Tea Partier’s loss. 

There’s no way at present to know if Fielder is telling the truth—after all, he has already recanted much of his original story—but it does mark yet another bizarre chapter in a Senate race which has already featured break-insracial tension, and one of the strangest conference calls in the 138-year history of the telephone.

One thing is for sure, though. More than two months after the first round of voting and six weeks after Cochran won the runoff, the freak show is bound to continue for a while longer.