U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith Under Fire For 'Public Hanging' Comment

Days after appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith advanced to a runoff election to retain her seat, the senator has drawn criticism for comments made during a campaign appearance on Nov. 2.

The video was first posted to Facebook and Twitter by Lamar White, Jr. the publisher of The Bayou Brief.

In the 10 second clip, Hyde-Smith can be heard speaking to a small group in front of a statue of Elvis Presley in Presley's hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi. While the first part of her comment is drowned out by a train whistle, the senator can be heard saying, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I would be on the front row."

The "he" Hyde-Smith speaks of is Mississippi cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson, who the senator is standing with in the clip. According to a report from The Jackson Free Press, and the tweet from White, Hutchinson had just praised Hyde-Smith before her comment.

"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row"- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith says in Tupelo, MS after Colin Hutchinson, cattle rancher, praises her.

Hyde-Smith is in a runoff on Nov 27th against Mike Espy. pic.twitter.com/0a9jOEjokr

— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) November 11, 2018

On Sunday afternoon, Hyde-Smith released a statement in response to criticism from many on social media, including activist Shaun King, saying, "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."

Espy's runoff opponent, Democrat Mike Espy, released a statement in response to the video of Hyde-Smith which read, "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 judgment to represent the people of our state."

Hyde-Smith, a Republican, is currently campaigning across Mississippi to retain her senate seat, with a runoff election between she and Espy set for Nov. 27.

The race will have a historic outcome, regardless of the winner, with Hyde-Smith becoming the first woman elected to Congress in Mississippi. Espy, if elected, would be the first black man or woman elected by Mississippians to Congress since Reconstruction and the first Democrat since 1982.

Hyde-Smith was appointed to the post by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant after former-U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R) resigned in April 2018 citing health issues. Espy and Hyde-Smith are campaigning in a special election to finish out Cochran's term, which will end in January 2020.

The two candidates are expected to participate in a debate on Nov. 20 in Jackson, Mississippi. Espy challenged Hyde-Smith to the debate on Nov. 7 after she failed to confirm an appearance at a debate that was scheduled to be held in October with Espy and two other candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat. However, Espy pulled out of the debate when Hyde-Smith failed to confirm her participation, prompting Mississippi Public Broadcasting to cancel the event.

Hyde-Smith has agreed to participate in the Nov. 20 debate after an invitation was extended to her from Mississippi Farm Bureau, who will sponsor the event. However, Espy has yet to confirm his involvement in the debate.