Update (November 13, 2018): Mississippi GOP Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith took questions after an appearance with her state's Republican governor Monday, and was asked repeatedly about her "public hanging" joke, CNN reports.
Each time a journalist asked Hyde-Smith about her words, the candidate referred them to her weekend statement in which she called her joke about being in the front row of a public hanging "an exaggerated expression of regard."
"I put out a statement yesterday and we stand by that statement," the GOP hopeful told a reporter Monday before telling another who asked a similar question, "We put out the statement yesterday and it's available and we stand by that statement."
Three other reporters tried to get clarity on Hyde-Smith's feelings on her joke, and each of them were met with much the same words.
In today’s press conference receiving an endorsement from the National Right to Life President, @SenHydeSmith was only asked questions regarding her statement on “public hangings” this is what she and Gov. @PhilBryantMS had to say: #mssen #mselex pic.twitter.com/HuFZlNlq34— Yall Politics (@MSyallpolitics) November 12, 2018
Another journalist addressed the governor, Phil Bryant, and asked him what he thought about the issue.
"She's certainly addressing the fact that she put out a statement," Bryant said.
Mike Espy, Hyde-Smith's Democratic opponent, appeared on MSNBC Monday and continued to denounce both her joke and her statement defending it.
“I have to confess to you, I’ve never heard that kind of colloquialism,” Espy said. "I can’t reach into her heart and determine why that came out of her mouth, but it was wrong.”
Original: Mississippi GOP Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith refuses to apologize after being heavily criticized for making a joke about lynching.
Hyde-Smith was speaking to a group of supporters on November 2 after cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson introduced her at the event, and she commented, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row," according to KNOE.
"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row"- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith says in Tupelo, MS after Colin Hutchinson, cattle rancher, praises her.— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) November 11, 2018
Hyde-Smith is in a runoff on Nov 27th against Mike Espy. pic.twitter.com/0a9jOEjokr
The video made it to social media and went viral.
Mississippi had the highest number of lynchings in the United States between 1882 and 1968. The state's flag contains the flag of the Confederate States of America. Despite this history and present reality, Hyde-Smith claims her words weren't racist. She has also made it clear she wasn't referencing her opponent for the Senate job, who is Black.
"I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement," Hyde-Smith said in a statement. "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."
Mike Espy, the Democratic candidate for the seat, argued it doesn't matter who Hyde-Smith was talking about; in an interview with CNN he called the expression "hurtful and harmful" and one that reinforces negative "stereotypes that have held back our state:"
Mississippi Democrat Mike Espy (@espyforsenate) calls Republican opponent Cindy Hyde-Smith's "public hanging" comments "hurtful and harmful" and "reinforce the stereotypes that have held back our state...This is 2018...We need leaders who will try to unite us and not divide us." pic.twitter.com/iaq8mtGo0s— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) November 12, 2018
Espy’s campaign formally condemned Hyde-Smith’s comments on Sunday.
"Cindy Hyde-Smith's comments are reprehensible," Espy spokesman Danny Blanton said in a statement. "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."
The senator was also called out on social media:
This is precisely why Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith cavalierly making jokes about public hangings and lynchings is a major red flag. 🚩 https://t.co/mhgrAtI4he— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) November 12, 2018
Stumping in Mississippi which has the highest number of “recorded” lynchings of black people, Cindy Hyde-Smith says she’d be in the front row of a public hanging. Folks like Cindy don’t think or care about being implicitly or explicitly racist. https://t.co/zWjS6w19eg— Commissioner Tami Sawyer (@tamisawyer) November 11, 2018
Mississippi: 1 in 5 Black people has lost the right to vote; a White man wore 👇at a polling place; & yesterday Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said about a cattle rancher, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) November 12, 2018
She's facing Mike Epsy in an election Nov 27. VOTE. pic.twitter.com/P6hyzWtdH2
The real joke is that even tho Cindy Hyde-Smith made that comment, she’s still going to get a significant number of votes. This is MS after all. It probably won’t affect her numbers in the slightest. But the rest of us have to show up and show out for Mike Espy— Rhea (@ItsREE_1908) November 12, 2018
Cindy Hyde-Smith was born in 1959. Public executions aren’t part of the history of Mississippi in her lifetime. Lynchings are.— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) November 11, 2018
Mississippi's Republican Governor Phil Bryant appointed Hyde-Smith the U.S. Senate after Thad Cochran resigned in April due to health reasons. She and Espy will face off in a runoff on November 27.
President Donald Trump endorsed Hyde-Smith in August.
...Cindy has voted for our Agenda in the Senate 100% of the time and has my complete and total Endorsement. We need Cindy to win in Mississippi!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
🚨🚨POLLS ARE OPEN IN MISSISSIPPI🚨🚨— Cindy Hyde-Smith (@cindyhydesmith) November 6, 2018
@realDonaldTrump's presidency has been nothing but winning, and as your Senator, I'm committed to rebuilding our military, ending illegal immigration, and no more tax $$$ for abortion! Can I count on your vote TODAY? #Cindy2018 pic.twitter.com/g3akh46QGp
Epsy and Hyde-Smith first ran for the empty seat on November 6, but neither could get the 50 percent of votes needed to secure the position. Espy became the first Black Mississippian to serve in the U.S. House since Reconstruction when he was elected in 1986. If he wins the Senate seat, he will be the first Black senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction.
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