SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The attorney for a co-owner of the San Francisco Giants who made a campaign donation to controversial Mississippi U.S. Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith says his client is sorry for the outcry it has caused.
Hyde-Smith, the incumbent, has come under fire for a series of controversies, including praising a close supporter by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” She has also made remarks seemingly favoring voter suppression and was recently photographed posing with Confederate memorabilia.
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The San Francisco Giants attempted to distance themselves Monday from the $5,000 donation made by principal owner Charles Johnson, one of the team’s 30 owners.
Attorney Joe Cotchett said Monday afternoon Johnson is not a racist, and that his client simply obliged a request to make a political donation to a Republican candidate. Cotchett says Johnson made a mistake and didn’t pay attention to the news and didn’t really know Hyde-Smith’s background, but so far he has not asked for the donation back, as far as Cotchett knows.
Cotchett was interviewed by reporter Joe Vazquez.
VAZQUEZ: You spoke to him recently?
COTCHETT: How about this morning?
V: What did he say? What was his tone? What should the public know about him?
C: Well, he’s very sorry this whole thing came up. He’s very sorry … in my own interpretation of his words, I don’t think he would have written that check had he understood about this woman’s background.
V: At this moment in time he hasn’t asked for the money back … that may or may not happen?
C: Well, I don’t know that for a fact, but that’s a very important question. I said to him, “Charlie …if you believe in her heart this woman’s a racist, I would suggest you write and get that money back.”
VAZQUEZ: He has not responded to that?
C: No, the election is tomorrow.
V: Right. You could still get it back.
COTCHETT: I guess.
V: When an African-American person in Mississippi hears someone talking about a public hanging, maybe that means something to their ear. And they believe public officials shouldn’t be saying stuff like that. And maybe they think that’s based on race.
C: I strongly believe that’s based on race. I strongly believe the woman is a racist. My personal opinion. But there are other people who will say to you, ‘No that really wasn’t a racist comment.’ Maybe to Charlie he will think that was racist. But to lay out that one statement by her … that he should now write and get his check back. I think that depends on Mr. Johnson.
V: The Giants are not a financial company or a factory making widgets. They’ve been described as a public trust. They ask for the public to give them money –
C: Couldn’t agree with you more.
V So does that make it different? As one fan put it, ‘Should a person asking for Bay Area money represent Bay Area values?’
C: Answer is, ‘absolutely.’ No question in my mind. Charlie Johnson and his wife represent Bay Area values. You ought to see the entities that he and his wife give in terms of foundation money. They also contribute to Republicans because he is a Republican. I do the same thing, but I contribute to Democrats. Because I am a Democrat. That’s what this wonderful country is all about.
V: But if you got burned once, should you pay more attention before you write the next check?
C: You know, I think you should. But how do you know the name when you’re writing a check?
V: Her story had been out there for a few weeks, though. I mean, this one was not so surreptitious as the Super PAC. Her story had been out there. [Johnson previously apologized a few months ago after supporting a Republican Super PAC which was proven to be making racist radio ads.]
C: Oh, I’m not sure about that. That’s where we differ. I’m not sure how long it had been out there. I think if Charlie truly believed that this woman was a racist, he would and I would recommend that he get his check back. Does it have anything to do with the Giants? I don’t know that it has a thing to do with the Giants. Charlie is not a racist. He’s one of the most wonderful people in the world.