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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.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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