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Senator, Mississippi

Senator Jokes About ‘Public Hanging’; Her Black Opponent Not Amused

A Mississippi senator running for election against a Black man joked in a video about attending a “public hanging” by one of her supporters, if she were invited.

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith made the comments while she was campaigning with cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson, according to Politico.

“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” Hyde-Smith said in the video posted on Sunday by a Mississippi blogger.

Hyde-Smith is facing Democrat Mike Espy, who made history in 1993 as the first African-American to serve as agriculture secretary, in a runoff election on Nov. 27. She was sworn into the Senate in April after replacing Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired due to his failing health. Both candidates failed to garner over 50 percent of the vote in last week’s Senate race.

“Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible,” Danny Blanton, a spokesman for Espy, told Politico. “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.”

Hyde-Smith downplayed her Nov. 2 comment, saying that it was an “exaggerated expression of regard.”

She told Politico in a statement, “In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. 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.”

NAACP President Derrick Johnson condemned the senator’s remark, calling it “sick.”

Johnson told Politico, “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. Any politician seeking to serve as the national voice of the people of Mississippi should know better.”

Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.