Cindy Hyde-Smith blasted for ‘public hanging’ comments; she calls criticism ‘ridiculous’

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today / Report for AmericaRepublican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks to supporters during her watch party at the Westin Jackson Tuesday, November 6, 2018.
A video featuring Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is spreading rapidly across social media as critics say her comments invoke Mississippi’s violent history of lynching.
The video was first posted just before 8 a.m. on Sunday by Lamar White Jr., the publisher and founder of The Bayou Brief, a nonprofit news organization based in Louisiana. The website calls White “one of Louisiana’s most acclaimed online journalists and prominent progressive activists.”
According to White’s post, after a supporter praised Hyde-Smith, she said to a crowd gathered in Tupelo: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
In an interview with Mississippi Today, White said he did not take the video, which he says was recorded on Nov. 2 — before the election — and has been viewed close to 90,000 times on Facebook. White added that he has not seen the full recording.
Hyde-Smith said she was referring to 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 said through a statement.
The campaign of Democrat Mike Espy, who is African American and faces Hyde-Smith in an upcoming runoff election, saw the statement differently, however.
“Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible,” said Danny Blanton, a spokesperson for the Espy campaign in a statement sent to media outlets. “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