Walmart Demands Refund For Donations To Candidate Who Made ‘Public Hanging’ Comments

Left, a Walmart store; right, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi).
Justin Sullivan / Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Retail giant Walmart announced on Tuesday it was seeking to get campaign funds back from a Republican candidate who made controversial comments about wanting to attend a “public hanging” earlier this month.

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi is set to face off against her Democratic challenger Mike Espy in a runoff election in the state on November 27. The race is considered a longshot for Espy, as the state hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since the early 1980s, according to reporting from Reuters. Yet the race has renewed interest following remarks that were made public earlier this month by Hyde-Smith.

Discussing one of her supporters at a campaign event, video of Hyde-Smith surfaced that demonstrated her saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Many have suggested the comments are racist or at the very least insensitive to the historic plight of blacks in the South. Hangings in public squares were often done against African-Americans, frequently without a trial, conducted by “lynch mobs” that usurped constitutional protections for blacks. Historians agree that such hangings were done in order to terrorize black Americans into submitting to white dominance, according to reporting from the Guardian.

Criticism of Hyde-Smith’s comments has focused partially on those who have supported her financially, including donors like Walmart. Shortly after the video surfaced, the company made a $2,000 donation to the candidate, which outraged several users on social media, including actress Debra Messing.

After Messing shared an article about the retailer donating to Hyde-Smith’s campaign, Walmart sent a response tweet to her, explaining its intent to get a refund on their contribution.

“Hi Debra. Completely understand your concern,” Walmart wrote in its tweet. “Sen. Hyde-Smith’s recent comments clearly do not reflect the values of our company and associates. As a result, we are withdrawing our support and requesting a refund of all campaign donations.”

In the 2018 election cycle, Walmart gave around $1.4 million in campaign donations to candidates for office. Although it gave to both parties, the retail super-giant gave nearly 53 percent of its donations to Republican candidates, and 47 percent of its donations toward Democrats, according to data obtained from OpenSecrets.org.

It’s unclear if Walmart is seeking a refund on more of its funds that were given to Hyde-Smith after her controversial comments were made public. Walmart also made a donation to her campaign in June in the amount of $1,000.