Cindy Hyde-Smith and her supporters laughed as she quipped about being in the front row of a "public hanging", according to a newly surfaced video. It shows a small group of white people clapping politely for Hyde-Smith after a fellow cattle rancher introduced her.
Lamar White Jr., publisher of a left-leaning Louisiana news site called The Bayou Brief, posted the video Sunday on social media.
Hyde-Smith has occupied Mississippi's junior Senate seat since April, when she was appointed to the position temporarily to replace Thad Cochran who stood down for ill health. They finished ahead of a crowded field of candidates in a November 6 special election in which no one won more than 50 percent of the vote. If elected, he would be the first black senator from the state since just after the Civil War, according to The Washington Post.
In a formal statement, Espy's campaign also said that the comments were "reprehensible".
In the video, Hyde-Smith appeared to be speaking during a campaign event about the support of a MS rancher. "We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgement to represent the people of our state".
"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row", the senator is heard saying in the video. The source acquired it from the individual who recorded it, he said.
During a Monday morning appearance on CNN's New Day, Espy called the comments "disappointing" and said that residents deserved better.
"To envision this brutal and degenerate type of frame during a time when Black people, Jewish people and immigrants are still being targeted for violence by White nationalists and racists is hurtful and harmful", Johnson said in a statement. She said it was an "exaggerated expression of regard" for the individual who had invited her to speak and "any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous".
At a campaign event Monday, Hyde-Smith refused to answer repeated questions about her comments, saying she has nothing to add to her statement. Statistics from the NAACP show that almost one-eighth of the nation's 4743 lynchings between 1882 and 1968 took place in Mississippi.
At an October 2 rally in Southaven, Mississippi, Trump continued to stump for Hyde-Smith.
"I can't reach into her heart and determine why that came out of her mouth", Espy said. She meant no offense by that statement.
Hyde-Smith has received the support of President Trump who tweeted in August that she is "strong" on issues that'll help him "put America first!"
"These comments from a sitting USA senator have harmed our state and it's just - you know, we have to get beyond this now", he added.