Editor’s note: On Tuesday night, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper focused his staff’s efforts on getting as much information as possible about U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop cronyistic use of Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships. Here is transcript of the show:
COOPER: Well, when Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell suddenly stopped talking to the national media, we made sure to point that out. So it’s only fair, we thought tonight, that we point out the same thing when Democratic congressman refuses to talk about a scandal he is embroiled in. We’ll promise to keep you updated on it.
Now, we’re talking about Georgia Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop. That’s him. He was caught giving Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarship money meant for needy kids to his stepdaughter and his wife’s niece. Seven scholarships in all between 2003 and 2005.
He says he’s done nothing wrong. He reportedly repaid the money. But on Friday, the Associated Press reported four more questionable scholarships had surfaced. All four reportedly went to people with close connections to Congressman Bishop and his family.
The congressman claims the awards met the rules of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. An attorney for the foundation that oversees the scholarship fund says the fund was established to benefit disadvantaged, needy kids.
So we’d like to ask Congressman Bishop how that squares with what he did. But he declined our invitation to come on the program on Friday. We tried again yesterday, and his office told us he’d be campaigning in Georgia today. But when we called his Georgia campaign office, we were told he didn’t have any campaign events today. They said that he was actually in Washington. So then we called another staffer in Washington who said, “Nope, he’s actually back in Georgia.” You probably see where this is going.
When Joe Johns called back again to point out all the mixed signals, here’s what he found.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We’re calling Tim Turner now, the Sanford campaign manager.
TIM TURNER, SANFORD CAMPAIGN MANAGER (via phone): Tim Turner speaking.
JOHNS: Hey, Tim, it’s Joe Johns with CNN. How are you doing?
TURNER: All right. How are you doing, sir?
JOHNS: Good, good. We’re doing a story on trying to catch up with the congressman. I was just wondering if you could tell us whether the congressman is in Georgia or in Washington, and if there’s a chance we can maybe interview him.
TURNER: He’s in Washington. and I don’t know what his schedule is today.
JOHNS: Now that we know he’s in Washington, perhaps we’ll go over to the Capitol and see if we can get a hold of him.
Fourth floor. Congressman Bishop’s office is 2429. We’re going to go and check it.
Hello, anybody home? Is Congressman Bishop around? Hey. Looking for Mr. McCray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. McCray?
JOHNS: Or congressman Bishop. You think he’ll talk to us later?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His schedule is fully booked for the rest of the day.
JOHNS: All right. Has he talked to anybody about the scholarship business?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is unavailable and…
JOHNS: Ask him to give me a call, will you? All right. Thanks a lot.
So there’s simply no way of telling whether Congressman Bishop is here. His staff says he’s not available but not volunteering any information about where he might be. The staff says he’s working all day, but there are no votes on the House floor. It’s pretty clear Congressman Bishop doesn’t want to talk to us.
COOPER: We just want to ask him some very basic questions, Joe. I guess you can’t just camp out at his office, huh?
JOHNS: No. I mean, you can’t camp out inside his office. You can’t camp out outside his office. There are a lot of rules to covering the Congress, and it’s the Congress, of course, that makes the rules.
COOPER: No doubt about that.
You know, he’s held this seat for almost two decades. Do you think — I mean, is this hurting his race? He’s in a race right now, obviously.
JOHNS: He’s definitely getting attacked with it, and he’s got a clear advantage. It’s a majority or almost majority African-American district.
He’s running against a guy named Mike Keown, who’s a state representative. The thing about this is right around April to June, Keown got a whole lot of money infused into his campaign, and now he’s got some Tea Party support. So Bishop is a lot more vulnerable than he was last time around, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, again, we extend the invitation to the congressman any night. We’re around. We’re here every night.
Joe, thanks very much.