Weeks after Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith came under fire for “joking” about attending a public hanging, a Mississippi State Senator has come to her defense. At a rally for Hyde-Smith, State Sen. Charles Younger invoked Dylan Roof — the white nationalist who slaughtered nine Black parishioners in a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015 — to show support for the embattled Senator as she faces off again Democratic challenger Mike Espy. “[Hyde-Smith] said something out of jest that wasn’t the most politically correct thing to say but, you know, I bet you nine out of 10 Democrats would vote to execute the young man that killed the nine black people in the church in South Carolina — the African Americans that were killed in South Carolina,” Younger told Mississippi Today. “I bet you nine out of 10 Democrats would vote to have him executed any kind of way.” While many drew comparisons between Hyde-Smith’s comments on attending a public hanging to the ugly history of lynching in Mississippi (and the Senator’s history of endorsing Confederate insignia), Younger argued her comments had nothing to do with race at all. “Public hanging was an execution style,” Younger said. “It wasn’t lynching — it was a public hanging where it had to pass through the courts and it wasn’t a color or a race issue. It was just a means of punishment.” If that weren’t enough, Younger asserted that the antiquated practice may prevent crime today. “Frankly, if [public hanging] was back again I think it would deter a lot of crimes,” he said. During a debate against Espy, Hyde-Smith issued a half-hearted apology for her remarks “For anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize,” she said. “There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements.” According to the NAACP, “From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were Black.” Mississippi, which Hyde-Smith is running to represent, was the scene of the bulk of these extrajudicial killings, with at least 581 occurring in the Magnolia State.

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