By Anna Grace Usery
A 10-second video that surfaced on Twitter Sunday, Nov. 11 that showed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith campaigning at an outdoor event in Tupelo has gone viral.
Hyde-Smith, a Republican, looked into the crowd of supporters Nov. 2 as cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson draped his arm around her in support.
Hyde-Smith chuckled along with the crowd and emboldened Hutchinson as her supporter by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
Lamar White Jr., an investigative journalist, publisher of The Bayou Brief and member of the ACLU Board of Directors in Louisiana posted the video. As of Monday at noon his original post garnered 3.36 million views, 3,100 comments, 9,500 retweets and 8,000 likes. White Jr. told Mississippi Today he did not record the video himself but received it from a very “trusted reliable source” and that he “vetted it” himself.
Cristen Hemmins, chair at the Lafayette County Democratic Party, called Hyde-Smith’s comment an “embarrassment and a shame” coming from someone with such power and representation for our state.
“Public hangings are not that far in the past for many Mississippians,” she said. “Here in Lafayette County, only two weeks ago we unveiled a new marker memorializing the lynching of Elwood Higginbottom. His son, who was 4 [years old] when it happened, and many other family members attended the ceremony.”
Hemmins said she speaks on behalf of the Lafayette County Democratic Party when she says Hyde-Smith has absolutely no place representing our state.
“We are used to dog whistles, but this was a foghorn,” she said.
A representative from the Lafayette County GOP did not comment on the nature of the video.
“Sen. Hyde-Smith has released a statement and we believe it is best to let her comment,” the representative said in a message.
Democrat and Nov. 27 runoff opponent Mike Espy appeared on CNN Monday, Nov. 12 calling Hyde-Smith’s comments “disappointing,” “hurtful” and “harmful.”
“We’re going here in Mississippi into the third decade of the 21st century, and we should not have this,” he said in the newscast. “We need leaders who would try to unite us and not divide us. We need to move forward as a state and I’m the leader who will do that.”
Hyde-Smith released an official statement after the video took Twitter by storm on national and international fronts.
“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,” she said.
At a press conference Gov. Phil Bryant and Hyde-Smith hosted at noon on Monday, questions were raised as to why the state of Mississippi shouldn’t find her “public hanging” comment offensive and how it could have been taken with a positive connotation.
“We put a statement out yesterday (Sunday), and it’s available. We stand by that statement,” she said on four different occasions.
Bryant nodded in agreement.
“I can tell you all of us in public life have said things on occasion that we could have phrased better,” Bryant said. “When you make as many speeches as we do in public life that does occur. She meant no offense by that statement.”
“We’re in the middle of a political campaign. This was clearly designed for a political purpose,” Bryant said in reference to the video being released.
Mississippi voters head to the polls Nov. 27 for a runoff to decide between Hyde-Smith and Espy as its next U.S. Senator.