Espy calls public hanging comments 'harmful'

Democratic candidate for US Senate in Mississippi Mike Espy says comments by his opponent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) about public hanging are tone deaf.

Posted: Nov 12, 2018 5:26 PM
Updated: Nov 12, 2018 5:55 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.

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: 27900

Reported Deaths: 1082
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds211139
DeSoto131115
Madison120634
Jones106149
Neshoba95268
Lauderdale87978
Rankin81612
Forrest79842
Scott74215
Harrison7198
Copiah56214
Leake54719
Holmes52040
Wayne51511
Jackson50516
Oktibbeha48324
Lee47716
Leflore46948
Yazoo4676
Washington4659
Lowndes44411
Lincoln43434
Warren42517
Lamar4077
Grenada3675
Pike35612
Monroe35529
Attala35023
Lafayette3394
Newton3289
Covington2905
Sunflower2806
Adams26318
Bolivar26113
Chickasaw25418
Panola2546
Jasper2456
Noxubee2458
Tate2457
Clay24010
Marion24011
Winston2405
Pearl River23932
Pontotoc2314
Claiborne22810
Simpson2183
Smith20411
Clarke19824
Marshall1963
Coahoma1836
Kemper17413
Union1729
Walthall1694
Carroll15711
Lawrence1541
Yalobusha1527
Webster12310
Itawamba1228
Tippah12111
Hancock12013
Humphreys1209
Calhoun1194
Montgomery1162
Jefferson Davis1034
Prentiss973
Tallahatchie943
Greene917
Tunica893
Wilkinson899
Jefferson843
Amite812
George733
Choctaw714
Quitman670
Tishomingo651
Perry594
Alcorn551
Stone511
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena61
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 38442

Reported Deaths: 947
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4210140
Montgomery378894
Mobile3634134
Tuscaloosa196436
Marshall14959
Lee116737
Shelby105623
Madison10216
Morgan9553
Franklin84313
Walker84317
Dallas8088
Elmore80614
Baldwin6639
Etowah60613
Butler60427
Chambers57627
DeKalb5765
Tallapoosa56069
Autauga53011
Unassigned50924
Russell4690
Lowndes45719
Houston4244
Lauderdale4105
Limestone4030
Cullman3983
Pike3965
Colbert3635
Bullock3609
Coffee3522
Barbour3221
Covington3086
St. Clair2922
Hale28520
Wilcox2788
Marengo27711
Sumter27512
Calhoun2685
Clarke2645
Escambia2586
Talladega2576
Dale2410
Winston2293
Jackson2102
Chilton2062
Blount2041
Pickens2046
Marion20012
Monroe1942
Choctaw19112
Conecuh1786
Randolph1699
Bibb1671
Macon1668
Greene1647
Perry1350
Henry1293
Crenshaw1223
Lawrence1000
Washington987
Cherokee717
Lamar711
Fayette661
Geneva630
Coosa551
Clay532
Cleburne291
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