Mississippi Republican senator boasts about public hanging

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith

JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) has made racially-charged lynching comments during a campaign rally in Tupelo, Miss. 

In a video clip of a campaign rally, Hyde-Smith told a group of supporters she if supporter Colin Hutchinson invited her to a public hanging she’d “be on the front row.” The clip surfaced Nov. 9 – three days after the general election – but was recorded Nov 2. This comment has drawn the ire of many familiar with Mississippi’s horrific legacy of hanging Black people.

From 1877-1950 there were 654 confirmed lynchings in the state. It is also noted that Hyde-Smith is facing a run-off election on Nov. 27 against her Democratic opponent, Former U.S. Representative and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, who is Black. The two must run-off because neither secured a Mississippi mandated 50 percent of the vote.

On Nov. 12, standing beside and defended by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), she refused to clarify her comments when repeatedly asked. The senator has yet to apologize for making comments she has attempted to characterize as a joke about attending a public hanging.

“Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s shameful remarks prove once again how (President Donald) Trump has created a social and political climate that normalizes hateful and racist rhetoric. We’ve seen this in Florida from Ron DeSantis and others during this election season and denounce it,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO. “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 lack of character.”

Jeff Robinson, ACLU deputy legal director, and Jennifer Riley Collins, ACLU of Mississippi executive director, issued a joint response.

“Sen. Hyde-Smith should be ashamed of herself. The fact that she chooses to use such repugnant language despite the ugly history in her state speaks to her lack of concern and knowledge about the experience of people who don’t look like her. Gov. Bryant’s defense of his appointee was also reprehensible as he attempted to cast a woman’s right to her own private health care as racial genocide,” read the statement. “To celebrate the chance to sit in the front row of a public hanging demonstrates a profound ignorance of the state’s institutional legacy of racism. Sen. Hyde-Smith needs to be held accountable for her words. The people of Mississippi deserve better from their elected officials and appointed officials. It would serve Sen. Hyde-Smith well to brush up on her state’s history – from slavery, to slave patrols, lynchings, black codes, Jim Crow, and all the way to modern-day mass incarceration – to fully understand the breadth of her despicable comment.”

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