Politics

Mississippi Senator Jokes About Attending A 'Public Hanging' And Refuses To Apologize

UNITED STATES - APRIL 9: Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., attends her swearing-in ceremony the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber after being sworn in on the Senate floor on April 9, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tanya A. Christian
Nov, 13, 2018 1:01 PM UTC

Over the weekend, a video of a Republican senator from Mississippi made its rounds on Twitter, sparking outrage. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to the Senate by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant earlier this year, told a crowd on the campaign trail, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” The “he” she’s  referring to is a cattle rancher who she was thanking at the time for supporting her in the election. Problem is — it’s never okay to joke about lynchings, especially not in Mississippi.

The video containing her comments, was posted by journalist Lamar White, Jr. and immediately drew criticism.

According to the NAACP, Mississippi held 581 public hangings, the most for any state from 1882 to 1968. In addition to the murky history behind it, Hyde-Smith’s words came just days before the sitting Senator faced off against Mike Epsy, her Democratic opponent in the race for a Mississippi Senate seat. Epsy happens to be a Black man and a formidable opponent in a red state. The race is now going to a runoff on Nov. 27.

On Sunday, Hyde-Smith released a statement addressing her comments, saying in part, “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.”

According to ABC News affiliate, WAPT, a day later when speaking to reporters in Mississippi, Hyde-Smith doubled down on her refusal to apologize by referring the attendees to her statement when asked about the comments.

Several lawmakers, including the Mississippi Legislative Democratic Caucus, have called on Hyde-Smith to apologize. To date, their pleas have not been met.

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