GOP Senator in Mississippi Jokes About ‘Public Hanging’ Ahead of Runoff Against Black Challenger

A Republican senator in Mississippi facing a runoff election against a black Democratic challenger later this month joked in a video released Sunday that she’d attend a “public hanging” if invited by a cattle rancher she was campaigning with. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith made the comments while campaigning in Tupelo ahead of a Nov. 27 runoff election against Mike Espy, according to Lamar White Jr., the publisher of the Bayou Brief. White posted a video of Hyde-Smith's remarks on Twitter Sunday, though it wasn't immediately clear when she made the comments. “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” Hyde-Smith can be heard saying. Her comments sparked outrage on social media, where many saw her “public hanging” remark as a clear reference to lynching. Hyde-Smith responded to the outrage in a Sunday night statement: “In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement,” she wrote. “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.”