BREAKING NEWS US advisers endorse single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from J&J Full Story
WEATHER AUTHORITY : Flash Flood Watch View Alerts

Just when you thought Cindy Hyde-Smith couldn't make her 'public hanging' comment any worse...

On Nov. 2,...

Posted: Nov 13, 2018 3:57 AM
Updated: Nov 13, 2018 3:57 AM

On Nov. 2, Cindy Hyde-Smith said something dumb.

Praising a cattle rancher and thanking him for his support, the Mississippi Republican senator said this: "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."

Continents and regions

Government and public administration

Government organizations - US

Mississippi

North America

Phil Bryant

Political Figures - US

Politics

Press conferences

Southeastern United States

The Americas

United States

US Congress

US Senate

Uh, no.

Four days later, Hyde-Smith took 41.4% of the vote to 40.4% against former Democratic Rep. Mike Espy, who is black. (Under Mississippi law, the two will compete in a Nov. 27 runoff.) Five days after the vote, the video emerged of Hyde-Smith's "joke" -- and a national controversy quickly ensued.

Trying to stop the bleeding, Hyde-Smith released a statement on Sunday, 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."

Which brings us to Monday in Mississippi. And specifically, a news conference with Hyde-Smith and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who appointed her in March to fill the seat of Thad Cochran, who resigned due to health issues.

Let me just say this as plainly as possible: This news conference could not have gone worse for Cindy Hyde-Smith. Like, it's simply not possible. You need to watch the whole video -- it's only 140 seconds long -- but just in case you don't, here's everything Hyde-Smith said when being asked a variety of questions about her "public hanging" comment. (These are in the order she said them.)

1. "I put out a statement yesterday and we stand by that statement."

2. "We put out the statement yesterday and it's available and we stand by that statement."

3. "I put out a statement yesterday and that's all I am going to say about it."

4. "I put out a statement and we stand by the statement and that's all I'm going to say about it."

5. "We put out a statement yesterday and I stand by the statement."

It's impossibly awkward. Like, me in high school awkward. Hell, it might even qualify as me in junior high school awkward.

And all of that comes before Bryant, who up to this point has been a bystander in this political disaster, is asked how Hyde-Smith referring to her past statement makes him feel.

"She's certainly addressing the fact that she put out a statement," he says in what has to be a first-ballot entrant into the saying-something-while-saying-nothing Hall of Fame. What Bryant is essentially saying is this: Look, I don't want ANY part of this. But I can attest to the fact that Hyde-Smith did say some words. Confirmed.

Here's what's remarkable about the whole thing: Hyde-Smith, a sitting Republican senator who had jokingly referred to a public hanging just days before the election, somehow made things even worse for herself in this news conference.

And what amazes me most is that it didn't have to be this way.

Hyde-Smith should know FAR better than to refer in a joking manner to public hangings in a state that, according to the NAACP, conducted the most lynchings (561) from 1882 to 1968. (Many people have suggested that the comment was made even worse by the fact that Hyde-Smith's main opponent in her re-election race is black. I think the comment is about as tone deaf and bad as it can possibly get no matter who Hyde-Smith is running against.)

But given that she made the comment, what she should have immediately done is simply apologize for her choice of words. Something like: "I got caught up in a moment of frivolity and made a deeply unfortunate word choice. I understand how deeply lynchings scarred the state of Mississippi and I am recommitting myself to fighting for the rights of every Mississippian when I go back to the Senate next year."

She didn't do that. Instead, she initially tried to suggest that people were twisting her words in search of a "negative connotation." What, exactly, is the positive connotation of the words "public hanging"? And the quote above from Hyde-Smith on Nov. 2 is entirely unedited. So how could she possibly have been misunderstood?

Then, on Monday, someone gave Hyde-Smith bad advice -- along the lines of "Stick to your initial statement. Don't give the fire any oxygen." Which, broadly speaking, makes sense when dealing with political problems. It does not make sense when the statement to which Hyde-Smith keeps referring is a bad one (as I noted above) and expresses no real apology for her comment. What you take from that 140 seconds of awkwardness is that Hyde-Smith's final word on her "joke" about a public hanging is that people are reading too much into it.

You can't get it more wrong than that.

Here's the thing: Hyde-Smith is still a heavy favorite to win a full six-year-term in two weeks' time. Mississippi is a decidedly conservative state and Republican candidates combined for more than 55% of the vote in the Senate race last Tuesday.

But what she's done over the past 48 hours -- and especially her news conference Monday -- amounts to a series of bad, bad, bad political blunders. And when a politician makes a mistake this grievous, sometimes the normal rules of political gravity don't hold.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 293542

Reported Deaths: 6638
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19601229
Hinds18712386
Harrison16569277
Rankin12637263
Jackson12483219
Lee9671160
Madison9420196
Jones7914146
Forrest7159136
Lauderdale6798226
Lowndes6014137
Lamar585880
Lafayette5716113
Washington5182129
Bolivar4599121
Oktibbeha440391
Panola428392
Pearl River4138128
Warren4122113
Pontotoc408068
Marshall400392
Monroe3981126
Union393673
Neshoba3777167
Lincoln3491100
Hancock341674
Leflore3363118
Sunflower317385
Tate301574
Pike299193
Scott292868
Alcorn290760
Itawamba289072
Yazoo284962
Coahoma276367
Tippah276165
Copiah276057
Simpson272778
Prentiss268858
Leake252171
Marion251578
Wayne251541
Covington248278
Grenada246277
Adams233377
George231145
Newton226352
Winston221375
Jasper212744
Tishomingo211965
Attala206369
Chickasaw200851
Holmes181770
Clay178250
Stone171829
Tallahatchie170039
Clarke168971
Calhoun157128
Smith152431
Yalobusha143536
Greene127233
Walthall123640
Noxubee122829
Perry121434
Montgomery121338
Lawrence119521
Carroll117923
Amite110932
Webster110030
Jefferson Davis101231
Tunica98823
Claiborne97929
Benton93324
Humphreys92427
Kemper89623
Quitman77114
Franklin75619
Choctaw69516
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson61927
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 491849

Reported Deaths: 9869
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson707641366
Mobile35937724
Madison32307450
Tuscaloosa24024410
Montgomery22502499
Shelby21848214
Baldwin19698277
Lee14926151
Morgan13624251
Calhoun13202285
Etowah13154319
Marshall11243208
Houston10058259
Limestone9348134
Elmore9345182
Cullman8879179
St. Clair8799221
Lauderdale8588210
DeKalb8436174
Talladega7500163
Walker6509251
Jackson6483102
Autauga622890
Blount6084125
Colbert6004118
Coffee5235102
Dale4627106
Russell402930
Franklin398876
Covington3949106
Chilton386298
Escambia377472
Tallapoosa3572141
Clarke343149
Chambers3399108
Dallas3397141
Pike292972
Lawrence282284
Marion281295
Winston246266
Bibb244560
Geneva238870
Marengo233755
Pickens223954
Barbour210651
Hale209068
Fayette199956
Butler195265
Henry182041
Cherokee176438
Monroe166038
Randolph163140
Washington156334
Crenshaw144054
Clay143454
Macon141643
Cleburne137139
Lamar132432
Lowndes130749
Wilcox121425
Bullock116336
Conecuh106523
Perry105427
Sumter98331
Coosa88623
Greene87132
Choctaw54923
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 60°
Columbus
Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 66°
Oxford
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 55°
Starkville
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 63°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather