A video surfaced over the weekend of Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith joking that she would have accepted an invitation to a public hanging from a supporter.
The clip shows Smith getting introduced to a crowd by local cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson, while standing in front of a statue of Elvis Presley in his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi.
"If he invited me to a public hanging," Smith said of Hutchinson, "I'd be on the front row."
Watch the video below:
"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row"- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith says in Tupelo, MS after Col… https://t.co/K5VCMsZpDV— Lamar White, Jr. (@Lamar White, Jr.) 1541951864.0
"There's no excuse to say what she said," Lamar White Jr. of The Bayou Brief, who published the video, told the Associated Press.
Hyde-Smith was appointed to the U.S. Senate in April and faces Democrat Mike Espy, Mississippi's first black post-Reconstruction Congressman, in a runoff election on November 27. Smith and Espy both received 41 percent of the vote in the November 6 midterms.
Smith's remarks were swiftly condemned on Sunday after the video went viral.
"Cindy Hyde-Smith's comments are reprehensible," Espy campaign spokesman Danny Blanton said. "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."
Below is the Espy for Senate Campaign statement on Cindy Hyde-Smith's "public hanging" comments: https://t.co/zccgQelDWt— Mike Espy (@Mike Espy) 1541979087.0
Hyde-Smith, however, has not apologized for her remarks and insists her comments were blown out of proportion.
"I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement," Hyde-Smith said in a statement Sunday. "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."
Twitter exploded in response to Hyde Smith's comments.
The fact that the crowd expressed genuine laughter is disturbing.
@LamarWhiteJr And her crowd of Republican supporters laughed and applauded at her “joke” about the public hanging.— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@Jon Cooper 🇺🇸) 1542027867.0
@Stephb_c @LamarWhiteJr I wanna be surprised but I can’t be anymore.— ❄️ an awful good girl ❄️ (@❄️ an awful good girl ❄️) 1541971125.0
@LamarWhiteJr What's worse? The fact she said what she did or the fact the crowd clapped for her in approval. We ca… https://t.co/2VHBRoVEP2— Lee Brown (@Lee Brown) 1541972455.0
@joncoopertweets @LamarWhiteJr This is why they are, in fact, deplorable.— LaneBrooks (@LaneBrooks) 1542028282.0
@teddysanfran @LamarWhiteJr I'd imagine it's dog-whistling.— Barbetta⛾🍁🕊🕵🌊💖🌸☮🍀*****The Greater Good💕✌🌎 (@Barbetta⛾🍁🕊🕵🌊💖🌸☮🍀*****The Greater Good💕✌🌎) 1541991895.0
"Racist and sick."
@rickwtyler @cindyhydesmith If it weren’t in Cindy Hyde Smith’s mind, she wouldn’t say it. She could have said she’… https://t.co/y1ZrJPNhqD— Jan Girando (@Jan Girando) 1542028387.0
Doug Stafford, the chief strategist for Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)'s PAC, was flabbergasted.
What the hell. https://t.co/8bgrpi1ZEI— Doug Stafford (@Doug Stafford) 1541975303.0
There's a word for public hangings - lynching.
@LamarWhiteJr I am trying to remember the word they used to use in Mississippi for public hangings.....it starts with an “L.”— Norman Ornstein (@Norman Ornstein) 1541973011.0
Democratic strategist Keith Boykin posted a photo of what Hyde-Smith said she wanted to witness.
Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith said recently she'd be "in the front row" of "a public hanging." She's now in… https://t.co/v2tPBBikxd— Keith Boykin (@Keith Boykin) 1541977437.0
A history teacher noted that the last public lynching in Hyde-Smith's home of Brookhaven, which she represented in the state Senate, took place in 1928.
Cindy Hyde-Smith was born in Brookhaven, MS, a town she later represented in the state Senate. The last "public han… https://t.co/lgjyxpRcpJ— Jason Morgan Ward (@Jason Morgan Ward) 1541993898.0
Hyde-Smith's joke about hanging, the teacher wrote, demonstrates a monumental ignorance of history.
"Public hanging" in Mississippi means lynching, plain and simple. Cracking jokes about it doesn't mean you're bliss… https://t.co/rKrIs5Pjoh— Jason Morgan Ward (@Jason Morgan Ward) 1541993899.0
Requests for information on how to donate to Espy began to fill Espy's Twitter feed.
@espyforsenate Found it! https://t.co/dzyRlXg6pc— Starrling's Nest Resists 🌊🌊🌊 (@Starrling's Nest Resists 🌊🌊🌊) 1541981071.0
@NolaMar_18 @espyforsenate Where? I want to also.— prognosticator (@prognosticator) 1541983222.0
@espyforsenate I’m writing postcards for you & have just donated to your campaign. What the woman said is totally u… https://t.co/QCNz7EaSsy— WTFGOP? #ImpeachmentIsComing (@WTFGOP? #ImpeachmentIsComing) 1541991952.0
@LamarWhiteJr People angry about what Hyde-Smith said can help Mike Espy’s campaign with #PostcardsToVoters It’s… https://t.co/PatcohBxv5— Melissa Tamminga (@Melissa Tamminga) 1541991620.0
@LamarWhiteJr WTAF. Running to donate to Espy.— Laura Kaye (@Laura Kaye) 1541968633.0
@laurakayeauthor @LamarWhiteJr Holy... Right behind you, Laura.— Xio Axelrod (@Xio Axelrod) 1541974122.0
@rmwunder @XioAxelrod @laurakayeauthor @LamarWhiteJr Thank you Rose!— Pharmboy (@Pharmboy) 1542035580.0
NAACP President Derrick Johnson, a Mississippi native, said that Hyde-Smith should know better. He also blamed President Donald Trump and his racially-charged rhetoric. Hyde-Smith has Trump's endorsement.
"Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith's shameful remarks prove once again how Trump has created a social and political climate that normalizes hateful and racist rhetoric," Johnson said in a statement. "Hyde-Smith's decision to joke about 'hanging,' in a state known for its violent and terroristic history toward African Americans is sick. To envision this brutal and degenerate type of frame during a time when Black people, Jewish People and immigrants are still being targeted for violence by White nationalists and racists is hateful and hurtful."
Mississippi has not yet escaped its violent history against people of color, nor has it stopped marginalizing their voices.
Mississippi: 1 in 5 Black people has lost the right to vote; a White man wore 👇at a polling place; & yesterday Sen.… https://t.co/tbFCZbLiuD— Rebecca Kavanagh (@Rebecca Kavanagh) 1541980845.0
"Mississippi has a history of racially motivated lynchings of black people," ABC News noted on Sunday. "The NAACP website says that between 1882 and 1968, there were 4,743 lynchings in the United States, and nearly 73 percent of the victims were black. It says Mississippi had 581 during that time, the highest number of any state."