JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker says his Mississippi colleague is being treated unfairly for praising a supporter at a campaign event by saying: "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."
Wicker says Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's words "are being twisted by her opponent ... to malign her character."
Hyde-Smith made the comment Nov. 2, and a video surfaced Sunday. She calls the phrase "an exaggerated expression of regard."
Her words have drawn criticism in Mississippi, which has a history of racially motivated lynchings.
Hyde-Smith is white. She faces a black Democrat, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, in a Nov. 27 runoff.
The winner will serve the final two years of a term started by Republican Thad Cochran. Hyde-Smith was appointed to serve temporarily when Cochran retired in April.