During the Mississippi Senate runoff debate Tuesday night, Republican candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith finally issued a watered down apology for her racist remarks about attending a “public hanging” — 18 days after she made her initial comments.
“You know, for anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize. There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements,” Hyde-Smith said. “I have worked with all Mississippians. It didn’t matter their skin color type, their age or their income. That’s my record.”
The candidate quickly pivoted to victimizing herself, saying, “This comment was twisted, was turned into a weapon to be used against me, a political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent. That’s the type of politics that Mississippians are sick and tired of.”
During a campaign stop on November 2, Hyde-Smith posed with a supporter and said, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” The comments evoked the United States’ racist and violent history of lynching.
Hyde-Smith’s remarks cut even deeper considering the fact that her opponent, Mike Espy — a former Agriculture Secretary and congressman — would be the first Black U.S. Senator from Mississippi since just after the Civil War if he is elected.
The controversy swirling around Hyde-Smith has intensified in recent days.
Following backlash to her comments, at least five corporations have asked for their donations back. AT&T, Leidos, and Walmart had donated a total of eight thousand dollars to her campaign but reversed that decision earlier this week. Smaller companies Union Pacific and Boston Scientific have also asked Hyde-Smith to return their donations.
Hi Debra. Completely understand your concern. 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.
— Walmart (@Walmart) November 20, 2018
The situation for Hyde-Smith got worse after reports of another racist incident made headlines earlier this week. A Facebook photo of Hyde-Smith holding a rifle and wearing a hat with the Confederate flag resurfaced Tuesday.
“Mississippi history at its best!” Hyde-Smith wrote in the post.
President Trump has defended the GOP state senator, saying her comments were “made in jest” and calling her a “tremendous” candidate.
The runoff election between Espy and Hyde-Smith is scheduled for November 27. Though Hyde-Smith has been leading in the polls, there are signs the Republican Party is growing nervous about the race tightening: President Trump is scheduled to hold a pair of campaign rallies the night before the election to help boost Hyde-Smith.
“The race is definitely tighter than what it should be,” one prominent Mississippi Republican told Talking Points Memo, speaking anonymously about concerns about Hyde-Smith. “Her performance has lately not been great.”