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.

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.

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:"

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:

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.

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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