Major League Baseball is asking Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) to return its $5,000 donation to her campaign, amid a public outcry over her racially insensitive remarks that were caught on camera earlier this month.
“The contribution was made in connection with an event that MLB lobbyists were asked to attend,” the league said in a statement issued Sunday. “MLB has requested that the contribution be returned.”
The donation, the legal maximum, was made just two days ago, a few weeks after Hyde-Smith was forced to apologize for comments about “public hangings” and voter suppression, which she later said were simply jokes. Other companies, including Walmart, have similarly asked that the Hyde-Smith return their donations in light of her comments, which were criticized as racist.
The controversy has sprung Tuesday’s upcoming U.S. Senate election runoff into the national spotlight. Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to the Senate earlier this year when Thad Cochran retired, is defending her seat in a runoff against Mike Espy, who served in Congress for three terms and as Bill Clinton’s agriculture secretary. Espy is African-American.
During a debate with Espy last week, Hyde-Smith apologized for her comments. But since then, she has faced a deluge of negative news stories.
The Jackson Free Press reported on Saturday that Hyde-Smith’s parents sent her to a school that was set up so that white parents wouldn’t have to follow newly established integration standards meant to end segregated schools. Hyde-Smith sent her daughter to the same school.
Moreover, CNN reported that Hyde-Smith, while she served as a Democratic state senator, pushed a controversial resolution honoring a woman whose father fought in the Confederate Army. The resolution called her “the last known living ‘Real Daughter’ of the Confederacy living in Mississippi,” and the measure lauded her father, stating that he “fought to defend his homeland and contributed to the rebuilding of the country.” Hyde-Smith was a lifelong Democrat before switching her party affiliation in 2010.
In their push to flip the Senate seat to blue, Democrats are aiming to boost turnout among African-Americans in the state, which has the highest percentage of black residents of any state in the country. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ)—both prospective 2020 presidential candidates—have visited Mississippi in recent days to campaign for Espy.
President Donald Trump is traveling to the state on Monday to headline two rallies for Hyde-Smith, who has run her campaign as a Trump loyalist, as Republicans try to defend her seat in a state that Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016. The president upped his support for her on Sunday, calling her “an outstanding person who is strong on the Border, Crime, Military, our great Vets, Healthcare & the 2nd [Amendment]. Needed in D.C.”