It seems that even in 2018 there are still some politicians who don’t realize public lynchings aren’t the sort of thing you can’t casually joke about to your constituents.
Sunday, white Republican Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith found herself in a world of trouble after a video surfaced which shows her admitting at a public event that she’d be “on the front row” if she were invited to “a public hanging.”
According to The Hill, the incident took place on November 2nd, although the context for such a jarring statement still remains unclear. The timing of the revelation couldn’t be any worse considering Hyde-Smith is currently running an emotionally charged campaign against Democrat Mike Espy, who might just happen to be the first Black U.S. senator from Mississippi since 1883 if he won.
“Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible,” a statement from Espy’s campaign said in response to the clip. “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 the people of our state.”
"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
“In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement,” she told the Jackson Free Press. “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.”
But given that Mississippi’s unsettling history of having the highest number of lynchings of African-Americans of any state, advocates like Cristen Hemmins, the chair of the Lafayette County Democrats, think her statements were particularly problematic.
“With the history of lynching of Mississippi, you just don’t say something like that,” Hemmins told The Washington Post. “I can’t even imagine the kind of mind that would come up with a throwaway phrase like that. I’m a Mississippian. Nobody I know talks like that. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
The NAACP is now also getting involved in the controversy and have issued a statement regarding Hyde-Smith’s unfortunate statement on being invited to a public hanging.
“Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s shameful remarks prove once again how Trump has created a social and political climate that normalizes hateful and racist rhetoric,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson. “We’ve seen this in Florida from Ron DeSantis and others during this election season and denounce it.”
“Hyde-Smith’s decision to joke about ‘hanging,’ in a state known for its violent and terroristic history toward African Americans is sick. 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 hateful and hurtful. Any politician seeking to serve as the national voice of the people of Mississippi should know better. Her choice of words serves as an indictment of not only her lack of judgment, but her lack of empathy, and most of all character.”