Cindy Hyde-Smith’s ‘public hanging’ joke draws Twitter backlash, response from Espy

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, left, and Mike Espy
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, left, and Mike Espy AP

A joke made by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith at a Nov. 2 campaign event in Tupelo is making the rounds on social media.

Lamar White, publisher of The Bayou Brief, posted a tweet that shows Hyde-Smith speaking after receiving praise from a cattle rancher, Colin Hutchinson.

“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” Hyde-Smith says in the 10-second video clip.

The crowd laughed in response.

Hyde-Smith, who was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant to fill Thad Cochran’s seat in March, will face former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy in a runoff on Nov. 27.

The senator’s joke drew swift condemnation on Twitter and a response from Espy:

“Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible. 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.”

Hyde-Smith released a statement that tried to add context to the video clip.

“In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement,” she said in the statement. “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.”

Hyde-Smith received 41.5 percent of the vote and Espy earned 40.6 in Tuesday’s special election. The runoff was triggered when no candidate hit 50 percent.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee.