Former Congressman Mike Espy (D-MS) ripped into incumbent Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) Tuesday night over racially-charged remarks Hyde-Smith made during a campaign stop right before the midterm elections.
During a closed-door debate between Espy and Hyde-Smith, who face a runoff election for U.S. Senate on November 27, Espy said Hyde-Smith gave their state "another black eye" when Hyde-Smith joked to a supporter: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
"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
After the video surfaced, Hyde-Smith quickly whined that what she said had been taken out of context. There was, as yet, no humility.
“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.”
On Tuesday, Hyde-Smith attempted to downplay her remarks by insisting that her words were
"twisted" and "turned into a weapon to be used against me."
Reading from a piece of paper, Hyde-Smith reluctantly said: "I certainly apologize."
Espy wasn't buying it.
"No one twisted your comments because the comments were live," Espy rebutted. "They came out of your mouth. I don't know what's in your heart — but we all know what came out of your mouth, and it went viral within in the first three minutes around the world."
QUICK CLIP: Mike Espy To Hyde-Smith: "I don't know what's in your heart but we all know what came out of your mouth… https://t.co/bowm6aUPgW— Mike Espy (@Mike Espy)1542765395.0
Watch the whole debate below. The exchange begins at 14:30.
HAPPENING NOW: Cindy Hyde-Smith faces Mike Espy in Mississippi Senate run-off election debate.… https://t.co/ORH6INKbzQ— ABC News (@ABC News)1542762130.0
Espy's fiery rebuke was well-received on Twitter.
@espyforsenate Mike Espy easily won this debate. How embarrassing Cindy Hyde-Smith was tonight. Please, don't embar… https://t.co/Zr5y78j7aR— Ms Fisher (@Ms Fisher)1542765984.0
@kylegriffin1 Excellent remark by Espy.— Bee Art (@Bee Art)1542768678.0
@kylegriffin1 She really needs to sit down. What is wrong with her supporters?— Nikki (@Nikki)1542767618.0
@Kathy73256812 @kylegriffin1 @espyforsenate Thank you for being a decent human being. I appreciate you! 👍👍— Putin's Not My Co-Signer nor my President (@Putin's Not My Co-Signer nor my President)1542808906.0
@713HouGirl @kylegriffin1 You have a conscience. She has an agenda.— )DEB00$TED( Botocks🆘Bollucks (@)DEB00$TED( Botocks🆘Bollucks)1542809683.0
@espyforsenate Go Mike Espy!! You are the ONLY CHOICE for Mississippi!!— 🌊🌊Geo🌊🌊 (@🌊🌊Geo🌊🌊)1542767335.0
Hyde-Smith's forced apology was not.
@kylegriffin1 Out of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)— Editing Donna (@Editing Donna)1542768030.0
@kylegriffin1 If you watch the clip Cindy Hyde Smith is reading her defense off of a piece of paper. Anyway, the f… https://t.co/Ht4tlnkEJ6— Mattchuto (@Mattchuto)1542769214.0
The fact that Hyde-Smith had a pre-written apology came across as disingenuous.
@NBCNews @TAPSTRIMEDIA Her response to the hanging comments was a written response, she read it. I believe she had… https://t.co/lPZdzbU0B6— KL Cole (@KL Cole)1542767427.0
@NBCNews she had to read her "apology" off a queue card, after she twisted what she said in knots, talking about he… https://t.co/HUlQUwFEm9— 🚴♂️ 🌊 Kas S 🌊 🚴♂️ (@🚴♂️ 🌊 Kas S 🌊 🚴♂️)1542767925.0
@NBCNews Her joking about lynching is grave, hideous and inexcusable.— sherie' franssen (@sherie' franssen)1542766915.0
@NBCNews How the hell can anyone twist a comment, especially a comment rhat has the words "public hanging"... what… https://t.co/AhZ2R6AV90— griznation23 (@griznation23)1542773037.0
@espyforsenate Never in my life have I heard anyone make references to public hangings or lynchings in jest. Who wo… https://t.co/oISy9SnjDZ— Stephanie Kennedy (@Stephanie Kennedy)1542775995.0
@espyforsenate @AinsleyBBrown Joking or not, cindy showed her true colors. Anybody voting for her will be undeniably ignorant.— Tristan Knight (@Tristan Knight)1542768453.0
"It's caused our state harm. It's given our state another black eye that we don't need. It's just rejuvenated old stereotypes that we don't need anymore. We have companies like Walmart that wrote to you today and told you that your comments did not reflect the values of that company."
When asked to reply, Hyde-Smith blamed Espy for the backlash sparked by her public hanging gaffe and then doubled-down on her words being "twisted."
Hyde-Smith said she "never meant anyone any ill-will" in her remarks. "It was never there," she insisted.
"My comments were taken and twisted and used as a political weapon against me by my opponent," Hyde-Smith complained. "And that is just wrong, it is unfortunate, and that's the type of politics Mississippians are tired of."
Prior to the start of the debate, which was sealed off to reporters except those selectively invited at the request of Hyde-Smith, the Senator demanded her notes, despite having agreed to no cheat sheets until the debate began.
Jackson Free Press reporter Ashton Pittman, who was in attendance, noted that Hyde-Smith looked down at her podium to read from prepared answers at least 20 times.
WATCH: I counted 20 times Cindy Hyde-Smith looked down at the two large stacks of notes in front of her during just… https://t.co/y2UDhBUtnr— Ashton Pittman (@Ashton Pittman)1542768023.0
The difference between the two candidates' paper piles was stark.
Whoa. Look at the size of the notepaper on Mike Espy’s podium vs. the two massive stacks on Cindy Hyde-Smith’s. Can… https://t.co/2oxAXjj2nS— Ashton Pittman (@Ashton Pittman)1542767011.0
@ashtonpittman @chrislhayes Wow. This is quite unbelievable. The accommodations made for Hyde-Smith certainly were not fair to Espy.— Joan Anzelmo (@Joan Anzelmo)1542770265.0
@JoanAnzelmo @ashtonpittman @chrislhayes But showed what a better candidate Espy was: speaking through his own thou… https://t.co/uPARvLLXvO— *Starry-Eyed*JGC (@*Starry-Eyed*JGC)1542782926.0
Hyde-Smith also messed up telling voters the date of the election - which is November 27 - when she told people to vote on November 22.
Note: She said the election is on Nov. 22. That’s wrong. It’s on Nov. 27. #MSSen— Ashton Pittman (@Ashton Pittman)1542771258.0
If elected, Espy would be Mississippi's first black Senator.