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October 26, 2006: Imus speaks with Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D) Tennessee

Imus:  "The good news is, pick of "The New York Times" this morning and on the Front Page is the last frame in this ad they ran that we were screaming about -- everybody else was -- yesterday, against Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee; this racist ad. Well, as I'm speaking to Lou, when we played, Lou hadn't seen it. He thought it was a joke."

Charles McCord:  "Right some kid had concocted it for YouTube."

Imus: "Yeah, a YouTube deal, you know? In fact, when I saw it on with Tim Russert, that's where I first saw it, on MSNBC. I called Charles, I said, what is this based on?  He said, we Googled it and saw that Harold went to a Playboy party at the Super Bowl along with 3,000 other people."

Charles McCord:  "Along with 3000 of Harold closest friends."


Imus:  "We were talking with Jeff Foxworthy yesterday, and he said, you know."

Charles McCord:  "Oh, man."

Imus: "He assumed that I had ever been to the Super Bowl, which I have not. Nor will I go."

Charles McCord:  "No, but he had a very good point."

Imus: "He had a good point.  He said, you know, he's been and so they take you around and they herd you -- hey, I want you to meet this guy, you meet that guy.  You know?"

Charles McCord: "They steer you through these various parties and stuff. It is at the Super Bowl, for Christ's sake."

Imus: "Now, if he had been in a hot tub with Hef at the mansion, if they still have that, with a bunch of naked -- then it is different."

Charles McCord:  "Yes, they still have that."

Imus:  "Oh, they do."

Charles McCord:  "Yeah."

Imus: "For Bill Clinton. But I also point out that the Congressman Ford is single, and he likes football and he likes girls."

Charles McCord:  "And he's not apologizing for either."

Imus: "As opposed to little boys or pages."

Charles McCord:   "Thank you."

Imus: "Who he's going to send e-mails to. We've got to get him out of the House of Representatives - "

Charles McCord: "Before he's molested.  You're right."

Imus: "Before something horrible happens to him."

Charles McCord:  "Before something terrible happens to the congressman."

Imus: "Please welcome the IMUS IN THE MORNING program, from the great state of Tennessee, Congressman Harold Ford Jr.    Good morning, Congressman Ford."

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.(D) Tennessee:  "Good morning. I am so thankful your concern extends to me in getting caught up in -- with pages or little boys."


Imus: "We don't want you to be getting any e-mails.  You'd have to be calling me to get Bo Dietl or somebody to straighten it out for you. I guess you wouldn't do that."

Charles McCord:  "To get Mark Foley off your back."

Imus: "Most people don't handle things the way I do because if they do they would get put in jail, anyway. So they took this ad down yesterday?  Is that right?"

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "Evidently, the Republican National Committee decided that they indeed would take the ad down, after you had thousands of people from Tennesseans calling the Republican National Committee, their local Republican Party's headquarters across the state, complaining that the ad was airing during family programming time and they just thought it was disgusting and inappropriate for their kids to be watching something like that.I thought the ad was just silly. Especially, when so much is going on around the world and so much is going on in our state with people wondering and working and struggling to make ends meet.  And now they have a new up.  They replaced the last with a new one.  It makes reckless and false accusations about my record.What it really shows is that these guys are, the Republicans nationally, just really underestimated the goodness and decency of people here in my state. People are ready for not only change in the way the government works in Washington, but they are ready for enormous change in how campaigns are run. This is really aided and benefited us here in these last two or three days, because we've run such a positive and clean campaign.  We have defended ourselves against these negative ads. We talked about issues and talked about answers. My opponent has come up short several times on a lot of these issues. And now that these ads."

Imus: "That's unfortunate."

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "He has been unable to get them down immediately. I think a lot of people in the state asked themselves another fundamental question:  How could Bob Corker, my opponent, stand up for them in the United States Senate if he could not stand up to the Republican National Committee and get some offensive smut-like ads pulled from the air."

Imus: "That is exactly what we were asking yesterday. Saying he came up short, that is not necessary."


Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "I heard your new campaign slogan for us, that I should stand up and say I am almost white."


Imus: "Yeah."

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "I am not sure we can use that one, but I --"

Imus:  "How about this -- Hi, I am Harold Ford, I am not Willie Horton.(LAUGHTER)You know, to be serious about this, I am not stupid. Sometimes I'm a
little naive. But I -- and I do not think -- I do not know why, maybe because of all the people I know in Nashville, and some people I know in Memphis.  And G.E. Patterson (ph) is a friend of mine.  I do not think of Tennessee as a Southern state. That probably sounds stupid, but -- and I do not think of white people or black people, or anybody else in Tennessee as being -- what's the word I want?  Not racist, but I mean -- like I said to Charles, why -- how -- who would this appeal to?  To suggest, you know, the Harold Ford who is black, he's African-American, and this white woman.  And we understand Tim Russert pointed this out.  We understand what the subtle implication is, but it's 2006. Miss Tennessee, who would buy into that? And Charles said, unfortunately, a number of people might. Apparently, now it's kind of backfired, but --"

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "Well, I'll tell you, the National Republican Party, I think, still believes we are operating in 1970. I think that is what prompted them to put that ad up. They have another ad, not only do they have a new television ad up, they have a new radio ad up that has very strong percussion and drum sounds in the background, as a talk about me. And as they shift to my opponent, the music becomes almost national anthem sounding like. This ad is not paid for by the Republican National Committee. It is actually paid for by my opponent.  And he has been challenged on this ad as perhaps suggesting something -- just another silly ad. I mean, I think it is all an effort on my opponent's part to avoid the most contentious issue and the most prominent issue on the minds of voters in the state, which is the war. And the impact it is having on military families, the impact it's having on our budget, and the impact that it is having on our morale and standing in the world.    So voters are getting that. I mean, I am not stoking the flames out here at all with these ads. These are -- politics is a contact sport.  This is what happens at the end of a campaign.  But there are levels of decency and appropriateness that must be maintained. You help bring a lot of attention to it and the thousands of Republicans who called our headquarters here in Tennessee saying we're voting for you now because we cannot believe that our party would stoop to such a level.So, it's been -- God works in mysterious ways. We're just continuing to campaign. We are on our way now over to the University of Tennessee for an event this morning, in Knoxville today. We will work our way across back to Nashville as we prepare for our final debate in the campaign on Saturday."

Imus: "I thought Tim Russert from -- We're talking to Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., from Tennessee. I thought Tim Russert did a magnificent job. MSNBC did -- I do not know how many people watched it  but I watched it, so that's all I can be concerned about. They did a magnificent job the other day when they devoted the entire day to politics.And Ken -- Tim Russert, had that guy the head of the -- Ken Mehlman,the guy who is the head of the Republican Party and put him on the spot about this ad. The guy looked foolish saying -- you know, he's the chairman of the Republican Party and he did not have the authority to take the ad down.  And of course, our point was that -- as you made earlier in our conversation, that Bob Corker wants to be a United States senator and he can't stand up to his own party, in his own state. And he professed to be offended by the ad and said it was over the top. Then tell them -- make them take it down.  Get on the phone and say take the ad off.  But he would not do that, because he did 't want to do that. What is his position on the war?"

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "When my opponent was asked, had he called Ken Mehlman or called the president, or called anyone Washington about the ad, he said,no, but that he had expressed his desire for the ad to be taken down. think voters here are getting it. Voters in Tennessee are smart and good people and have figured out what is going on here. I was shocked to hear Ken Mehlman suggest that there was nothing he could do to take the ad down. He's the chairman of the Republican National Committee. And he's sharing that he could not take down an ad that was paid for by the Republican National Committee.  An amazing statement. The new ad they have up says that I am in support -- Ken Mehlman's ad -- and ad that Ken Mehlman and the RNC are paying for -- says I am in support of gay marriage, that I'm in support of giving the abortion pill to schoolgirls.  I mean, just outrageously false and again demeaning and awful ads.  But we're going to continue to just plug right ahead and to plow right ahead.I'm a little surprisd the chairman of the party -- of the Republican Party -- would make such accusations knowing that all these things are false, particularly after he had he had his first ad up, and it didn't work.  And it was, again, another lie.  But we're going to just keep moving forward.  And we've been blessed, in this campaign every step of the way.  Voters are continuing to come to us.In the most recent polls, shows it is a dead heat. Knoxville's NBC affiliate, last night, released a poll showing the race 48/48.  I am encouraged by those numbers because they generally over represent the heavier Republican base in the east part of my state, which -- if we're performing well amongst Republicans, which I believe we are -- they have not begun to count some of the larger Democratic areas in middle Tennessee and west Tennessee. So, I'm encouraged about where we are and I'm not going to let your record down.  I want you to win this race, Mr. Imus.

Imus: "You know it's funny -- excuse me -- because I was just going to say that. I had a conversation with a number of friends, I'm talking to Harold Ford -- I said -- I always phrase it this way -- I was talking with Governor Friedman last night on the telephone and I said I have got to win Tennessee. And "I" -- used that word "I" have got to win Connecticut.  I haven't given up on Rick Santorum. I know people think I'm crazy for supporting him.  But he's a great guy. He has crazy views about stuff, but he is a man of his word. He stood up for the soldiers and was instrumental in getting the death benefits raised for them. He stood up and co-authored this Combating Autism Act, which by the way for the people who give him money it is not in his best interests. So, I need -- but the way I'm looking at it now, it looks like I'm going to win Connecticut -- "I". (LAUGHTER) And I feel confident I'm going to win Tennessee -- that would be you."

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "I tell you, you should be more encouraged this morning about Tennessee.  We learned this morning that we won the endorsement of the Bristol, Tennessee "Herald Courier" newspaper, which is the far upper east part of my state.  They call it the Tri-City, it is where we hold our big NASCAR race every year up in Bristol. This morning, the newspaper there endorsed us, which is a big feat for Democrats. We're the only -- our campaign is the only one that actually won endorsements in every region of the state.My opponent did not win an endorsement in west Tennessee, where I am from. We were able to wrack up all the endorsements there, and won the endorsement of the Nashville newspaper, which is called "The Tennessean", I believe "The Tennessean" is the biggest or second-biggest newspaper in the state. My hometown newspaper endorsed me, of course. And then one of the newspapers -- one of the daily newspapers in my opponent's home town, of Chattanooga, endorsed us as well.It is encouraging where we are in the race right now. We just have to keep plugging and fighting and ask everybody to keep praying for us as we move ahead. Plus, I'm thankful the guys at "Newsweek" took a hard look at the campaign.  They were very kind to us and give us a cover story about the things we're doing and we've been pulling together this campaign. It is exciting."

Imus: "How could they run an ad? I mean, a bunch of people in the Democratic Party actually are not happy with you that you're not some far left liberal, screaming Democrat; that you do oppose gay marriage, that you don't support partial birth abortion. How could they run an ad suggesting you do? I guess how could they run an ad -- that is a stupid question, I guess?"

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "Some news affiliates here in Tennessee have declined to carry the ad until they received verification from the RNC that I must supporter of gay marriage, which I am not. The news stations here know my record. Thus far, Ken Mehlman, and the RNC have been unable to approve these wild and false accusations about abortion and gay marriage.The reason they're running -- you know, like I do -- they are desperate and they are unable to really score any real points on health care, on the war, on gasoline prices, on immigration, or for that matter, stem cell research. They're focused more on those issues that they feel will inflame voters, even if that means lying.I know you -- my dad has even been the target of some of the awful attacks that these guys have made on me. I think voters have just reached a point where they are disgusted by it and sickened by it. We cannot let up one bit here between now and election day, but you can feel the momentum shift in the race here. And momentum growing, I should say, as we head into the final 12 days of the race."

Imus: "That is what Charles said. We were talking last night, we were disappointed the game was rained out.  He said, I really think this is -- he said, they ought to leave this ad up, as much as it's helping Harold."
Charles McCord:  "Yeah, Congressman, you ought to put Bob Corker on the payroll.He's going to pull you across."


Imus: "Somebody told me you confronted him in a parking lot and that irritated everybody.  What was that all about?

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "He flew into Memphis to call my dad and I crooks, and he was holding a press conference at the airport. I love my daddy. I make no bones about it. He's my best friend and my mentor.  And if every kid in America had a chance -- had a dad like mine and a mom like me, and grew up in a house like I did, that encouraged me and loved me and told me I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up, America would be a safer and much better place.He came into my hometown; he refuses to talk about issues, but wanted to call me and my father a crook. I went out to the airport and said when you finish your press conference, now that the press is here, why don't we have a little quasi debate about Iraq? My opponent has indicated that stay the course is the right approach. I happen to disagree. I side with one of your good friends, Joe Biden on this issue.  I think he has one of the best and most thoughtful plans on this -- at least thoughtful proposals on this.  And he walked out, my opponent did, and got to screaming and yelling. It just -- I walked away from him and let it be.I just refused to let him come to my town and attack my dad. -- I attack me.  And just basically accuse us of being crooks.  He had no he had no right to do that. Particularly from a guy -- my opponent -- is the only candidate in the country that has ever had his private business raided by the federal government for hiring illegal aliens.(LAUGHTER) And I just refused to let a guy come into my home town and say those kind of things about my family, when he himself was cited for breaking federal immigration law, by hiring illegals."

Imus: "And he wants to be the United States Senator? I don't think so.  I met your dad. I like your dad.  I got a good feeling about your dad. He is a good-looking guy, too, by the way."

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "I'm going to be with Bishop Patterson -- you know, Bishop -- you ought to send Bishop something.  He's doing real well -- (INAUDIBLE). You ought to send him something.  Just drop him a little note.  I'm going to see him in about a week, we're doing something at the church in Memphis at Bountiful Blessings (ph).  He is doing well, he's in good spirits."

Imus: "Tell him I said, hi.  I sent him some money."

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "I'm sure he would love to get just a little note from you."

Imus:  "I know what that note means.  He wants a check. That's all right. He does good work. God bless him."

Charles McCord:  "He does"

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "He's recovering from cancer. I will get to the information. He is doing well, his spirits are up. The church is doing great."

Imus: "Well, it looks good, Congressman Ford. So, don't let me down. Do not let America down."

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "I do not want to blemish in Senate races.  So I will do everything I can to make this thing come through."

Imus: "Thanks, Congressman."

Rep.Harold Ford Jr.: "Love you.  Thank you."

Imus: "Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. On the IMUS IN THE MORNING program."