GOP Mississippi senator facing criticism over comment about 'public hanging'

Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith joked about going "front row" to a "public hanging" in a video ...

Posted: Nov 12, 2018 2:11 PM
Updated: Nov 12, 2018 2:11 PM

Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith joked about going "front row" to a "public hanging" in a video posted to Twitter on Sunday morning, prompting her African-American opponent to call her comment "reprehensible."

"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row," the senator is heard saying in the video.

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Hyde-Smith faces former Democratic Rep. Mike Espy in a runoff election on November 27 for the Mississippi Senate seat. The runoff election was triggered when neither she nor Espy received more than 50% of the vote total on November 6.

Hyde-Smith was appointed in April to fill the seat vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who stepped down due to health reasons. She became the first female senator to represent the state.

Espy said on CNN's "New Day" Monday morning that the comments were "disappointing" and reflected poorly on the state.

"They are hurtful to millions of Mississippians who are people of goodwill," Espy said. "And they're harmful because they tend to reinforce the stereotypes that have held back our state for so long and that have cost us jobs and harmed our economy."

In the video, Hyde-Smith appeared to be speaking during a campaign event about the support of a Mississippi rancher.

The line drew applause and laughter from the crowd. The short video clip was met with immediate backlash online and had more than 2 million page views as of late Sunday night.

Hyde-Smith issued a statement on Sunday after the video posted, saying, "In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous."

In a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday, Espy, who would become the first black senator to represent Mississippi since the Reconstruction era if he wins, called the comments "reprehensible."

He wrote, "They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state."

In his CNN interview Monday morning, he said Hyde-Smith's response was "tone deaf," but when asked if the remark itself was racist or had racial connotations, Espy demurred and instead presented himself as a unifying candidate.

"My campaign is the campaign that tries to reach across the racial chasm, reach across the party chasm and bring us together," Espy said.

Mississippi had the highest number of lynchings in the nation between 1882 and 1968, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"Hyde-Smith's decision to joke about 'hanging' when the history of African Americans is marred by countless incidents of this barbarous act, is sick," NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement Sunday, according to The Washington Post. "Any politician seeking to serve as a national voice of the people of Mississippi should know better."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30674

Reported Deaths: 1107
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds248039
DeSoto157216
Madison129634
Jones112049
Neshoba98571
Rankin91612
Lauderdale90879
Harrison88610
Forrest86042
Scott77015
Jackson61616
Copiah60216
Washington5789
Leake57519
Holmes55141
Lee54718
Wayne54213
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51118
Yazoo5056
Leflore48651
Lowndes48312
Grenada4795
Lamar4567
Lincoln45434
Pike43112
Monroe39930
Lafayette3894
Sunflower3737
Attala35923
Covington3475
Panola3456
Newton3399
Bolivar33414
Adams31018
Simpson3103
Pontotoc2836
Tate27810
Chickasaw27618
Marion27511
Claiborne27010
Jasper2616
Noxubee2618
Winston2596
Pearl River25432
Clay24910
Marshall2263
Smith22011
Union2079
Clarke20624
Walthall2004
Coahoma1996
Kemper17814
Lawrence1741
Yalobusha1717
Carroll16411
Humphreys1479
Tallahatchie1364
Itawamba1358
Montgomery1312
Tippah13011
Calhoun1294
Hancock12613
Webster12510
Jefferson Davis1114
Prentiss1083
Jefferson1073
Greene1058
Tunica1003
Wilkinson949
Amite892
George863
Tishomingo781
Quitman760
Choctaw744
Alcorn682
Perry664
Stone641
Franklin452
Sharkey350
Benton340
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4944152
Montgomery4021103
Mobile4005134
Tuscaloosa222642
Marshall170210
Lee135937
Madison13597
Shelby122723
Morgan10715
Walker91424
Elmore90314
Franklin88914
Dallas8799
Baldwin8469
Etowah72713
DeKalb7075
Butler62428
Chambers62427
Tallapoosa58869
Autauga58312
Russell5450
Unassigned50323
Lauderdale4896
Limestone4810
Houston4794
Lowndes46721
Cullman4394
Pike4205
Colbert3916
Coffee3732
Bullock36810
St. Clair3662
Covington3547
Barbour3472
Escambia3376
Calhoun3325
Hale31021
Talladega3037
Marengo30211
Wilcox2908
Sumter28412
Dale2820
Clarke2736
Jackson2682
Winston2543
Chilton2392
Monroe2342
Blount2301
Pickens2276
Marion21913
Conecuh2047
Randolph2009
Choctaw19512
Bibb1871
Macon1859
Greene1838
Perry1701
Henry1323
Crenshaw1253
Lawrence1070
Washington1057
Cherokee857
Geneva790
Lamar751
Fayette681
Clay642
Coosa581
Cleburne361
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