Team Cindy: ‘Grossly unfair’ media coverage fueled the big Hyde-Smith victory they expected all along

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for AmericaCindy Hyde-Smith waves to supporters during her watch party at the Westin Jackson after winning a Senate runoff election against Mike Espy Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018.
Cindy Hyde-Smith beamed as she walked to the podium shortly before 10 p.m. on election night. For weeks her opponents and the media had latched onto controversial comments she made about public hangings and voter suppression, using those remarks — which the senator called jokes —along with images of her in Confederate attire, to label her a racist.
But that coverage, which included speculation that Hyde-Smith’s public gaffes could hand a victory to her Democratic opponent, Mike Espy, had missed the mark, Hyde-Smith told her supporters.
“The reason we won is because Mississippians know me, and they know my heart. And thank you for stepping up, Mississippi,” Hyde-Smith said from a riser at a Jackson hotel Tuesday night.
For Hyde-Smith and many of the senator’s supporters — including Gov. Phil Bryant, who that night introduced Hyde-Smith, his hand-picked successor to retiring U.S. Sen Thad Cochran in March — Tuesday’s victory over Espy was also a triumph over the two weeks of negative media attention on her campaign. And it was proof, they said, that Mississippi voters wouldn’t be cowed by the media.
Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for AmericaCindy Hyde-Smith speaks to media after after winning the Senate runoff election against Mike Espy Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018.
“I’d like to thank all the media in the back. Thank you!” Byrant told over three dozen national and state reporters at Hyde-Smith’s watch party. “Because your coverage helped turn out Republicans like never before. It’s because of what you did. You didn’t realize what was going on across Mississippi and across the nation. (Voters) said, “‘We’re not going to take it anymore. We’re not going