A newly released video shows Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith making a joke about attending a public hanging, CBS News reported.
In the video, released by the Louisiana news site Bayou Brief publisher Lamar White Jr. on Twitter this morning, Hyde-Smith is seen embracing cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson in front of a group in Tupelo, MS.
"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row," she said, receiving laughs and an applause from the small, all-white crowd.
Mississippi has a history of racially motivated lynchings of black people--according to the NAACP's website, between 1882 and 1968 the state had 581 of the total 4,743 lynchings in the United States, the highest number of any state. About 73 percent of the victims throughout the country were African-American.
The politician said in a statement today that her remark, which was made on November 2 before the midterm elections, was in reference to accepting an invitation from Hutchinson to a speaking engagement. Furthermore, she explained it was an "exaggerated expression of regard" for the cattle rancher, and that "any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous."
Hyde-Smith, who is endorsed by President Donald Trump, will be facing former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary Mike Espy, a black Democrat, in a runoff election on November 27. According to CBS News, Espy would be the first African-American since Reconstruction to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate if he wins.
"Cindy Hyde-Smith's comments are reprehensible," Espy campaign 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."Lamar White Jr. told Mississippi Today political reporter Adam Ganucheau that the video of the November 2 event was sent to him from a "very trusted, reliable source" whom he trusts "deeply." He acknowledged that it was most likely part of a longer video that he had not seen, and noted he had "no reason" to believe it had been "doctored in any way."
"There's no excuse to say what she said," White told the Associated Press.Hyde-Smith's comment has sparked several responses on Twitter. In one tweet, NAACP president Derrick Smith, who is from Mississippi, labeled her comment as "tone deaf and demonstrates disregard of MS racial history" and prove "once again how Trump has created a climate that normalizes hateful, racist rhetoric from political candidates." Both Hyde-Smith and Espy received about 41 percent of the vote in a four-person race on Tuesday, leading them to advance to the runoff election, CBS News reported. The winner will get the final two years of a term started by long-term Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who retired in April due to health reasons.
Hyde-Smith, who is the first woman to represent Mississippi in either chamber of Congress, was appointed to temporarily succeed Cochran by Republican Governor Phil Bryant, who has yet to comment on the Senator's remarks. Hyde-Smith will serve until the special election is resolved.