Cochran opponent faces more scrutiny over past comments

Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, is again facing scrutiny over controversial comments he’s made in the past about race.

The Wall Street Journal posted a 10-minute clip of a broadcast from McDaniel’s time as a radio host, somewhere between late 2006 or early 2007, McDaniel riffs on reparations for African Americans and jokes about the Spanish language.

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Early in the clip, McDaniel comments on a proposal to pay the descendants of slaves, declaring that “If they pass reparations, and my taxes are going up, I ain’t paying taxes.”

He suggests he and his radio show should head down to Mexico, where “a dollar bill can buy a mansion.”

Asked by someone whether they’d have to learn Spanish in such a case, he responds, “Yes, regrettably … You’ll have to learn just enough to ask where the bathroom is. Baños. Baños. That’s what you say.”

And he goes on to joke about the word “mamacita,” which translates to “little mama” in Spanish but is also a slang term for an attractive woman. 

Musing over how to ask someone if they have a sister, McDaniel says, “What about mamacita?”

“Mamacita works. ... I’m an English-speaking Anglo. I have no idea what it means, actually, but I’ve said it a few times, just for, you know, fun. And I think it basically means, ‘Hey, hot mama.’ Or, you know, ‘You’re a fine looking young thing,’ ” he says.

McDaniel also dismisses controversy over an ad for a white video game controller that features an image of a white woman and a black woman wrestling.

“There’s a white woman, and she’s holding down a black woman. The world’s gone nuts. Listen to this. Minority groups in California screaming that the image is racist. San Francisco politician Tom LeLand says ‘It’s racially charged, unnecessary and clearly offensive to our community.’ Well, she wasn’t holding down a gay guy,” he says in the recording.

McDaniel’s spokesman, Noel Fritsch, charged that the “liberal press” was on the attack.

"The liberal press clearly loves to attack conservatives of all types. When Chris got into this race he knew they would throw mud, so it's no surprise they'd dredge up decade-old comments made on conservative talk radio. Chris will continue to deliver his conservative message of controlling government spending, lowering taxes, and repealing ObamaCare across the state,” he said.

It’s not the first time off-color comments have drawn negative attention to the candidate, who’s considered the primary challenger with the best chance of defeating an incumbent senator this cycle. 

He’s suggested “hip-hop” culture has led to gun violence, dismissed waterboarding as a “fairly humane form of torture” and questioned why Hollywood doesn’t cast more Muslims as villains. 

It’s that penchant for controversial remarks, combined with Cochran’s vulnerability, that has Democrats hopeful about their chances in the race. 

Rep. Travis Childers is the Democratic candidate, and the party believes he has a solid shot if Cochran makes it through the primary. 

They point to former Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) unexpected loss in the 2012 Missouri Senate race after he made controversial comments about rape and pregnancy as a recent example of a candidate’s loose lips sinking his campaign.

Still, Mississippi often favors Republicans. And McDaniel’s supporters point to the 2008 Senate race, when former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) lost to Sen. Roger Wicker (R) by double digits in a favorable year for Democrats, as evidence they’ll hold the seat regardless of their candidate.

—This piece was updated to correct an intended reference to McDaniel.

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