Mississippi voters say Cindy Hyde-Smith’s ‘public hanging’ comment won’t affect their vote

Mississippi voters say Cindy Hyde-Smith’s ‘public hanging’ comment won’t affect their vote

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Current appointed Mississippi Senator and candidate for re-election, Cindy Hyde-Smith defended her ‘public hanging’ comment Sunday night.

Hyde-Smith was recorded November 2nd at a campaign event saying, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."

Lamar White Jr., publisher of The Bayou Brief, posted the video on Twitter and it has been viewed by millions, causing a national controversy.

Critics said Hyde-Smith’s comment are racist, referring to lynchings that most often ended in public hangings.

WMC Action News 5 asked Mississippi voters for their thoughts.

Voter Paul Williams said he doesn't think she should even be considered to be a candidate anymore.

"That ain't right .. I don't think she should run at all," said Williams.

Mississippi voters say Cindy Hyde-Smith’s ‘public hanging’ comment won’t affect their vote

On the contrary, voter Ricky Smith said he doesn't think her comments were meant to be racist.

"A public hanging? Are we talking racist? They hung a lot of white guys back in the day you know," said Smith.

Mississippi had the highest recorded number of lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.

Hyde-Smith responded with this statement Sunday:

“In a comment on November 2nd, 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.”

Hyde-Smith and Democratic candidate Mike Espy are in a runoff after neither candidate received over 50 percent of the vote last Tuesday.

Espy's campaign released a statement as well:

“Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible. 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 judgement to represent the people of our state.”

Lafayette County Democratic Chair Cristen Hemmins also weighed in on Hyde-Smith’s comments.

"I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear Cindy Hyde-Smith’s statement on attending “a public hanging.” I can’t even imagine what sort of person thinks of such a statement. Here in Lafayette County, only two weeks ago we unveiled a new marker memorializing the lynching of Elwood Higginbottom here, not that long ago. His son and many other family members attended the ceremony.

She said public hangings are not that far in the past for many Mississippians.

“Someone who would say such a thing has absolutely no place representing our state. It’s an embarrassment and a shame. We are used to dog whistles, but this was a foghorn,” said Hemmins.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson, who is also a Mississippian, called Hyde-Smith's remarks shameful.

“Once again how Trump has created a climate that normalizes hateful, racist rhetoric from political candidates. We’ve seen this from Rob DeSantis & others this election season & denounce such mean spirited behavior,” said Johnson.

Executive Director Mississippi Branch of NAACP, Corey Wiggins, said the senator’s remarks were unfortunate.

“Given the history, the terroristic threats of hanging, lynchings in the country and in this state it’s very unfortunate she would use that as a joke.”

The question now is how will these comments effect the runoff election set to take place on November 27th.

When asked if Hyde-Smith's comments would affect their vote as a Mississippian, both Williams and Smith said no.

However, Williams said he would not vote for her at all.

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