On Tuesday, former spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Doug Thornell appeared on MSNBC and claimed that Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) said she would attend a “public lynching.”
On November 11, a video surfaced in which Senator Hyde-Smith exchanged words with rancher Colin Hutchinson at an event that took place on November 2.
In the video, Hyde-Smith calls Hutchinson up from the crowd, pointing out that he is “one of [her] favorite folks.” Hutchinson introduces himself and praises Hyde-Smith, saying, “She’s exactly what we need in Washington.” After Hutchinson finishes speaking, Hyde-Smith replies:
I would fight a circle saw for him. If he invited me to a public hanging, I would be on the front row.
The senator’s comment was met with swift backlash, given Mississippi’s long history of lynchings.
Hyde-Smith initially dismissed the controversy, saying: “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.”
After increasing public pressure, however, Hyde-Smith apologized for the remark during a debate with her opponent, stating:
For anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize. There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statement. This comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to use against me, a political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent.”
During the MSNBC segment on Tuesday, host Craig Melvin brought up Hyde-Smith’s gaffe: “I think the reaction was, not even just to the flub — the comment — the way it was handled after, the apology, but not really being very specific about what she was apologizing for.”
Doug Thornell, also the former deputy political director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), then added:
It’s more than unfortunate to talk about how you would accept an invitation to watch a public lynching. I mean, it’s more than unfortunate to say that. And also to openly express that you support voter suppression tactics for voters in liberal areas.
As reported above, the senator never said she would attend a public “lynching.”
Hyde-Smith won a runoff election on Tuesday, beating Democratic challenger Mike Espy 53.9% to 46.1%. In April, Hyde-Smith was appointed to the United States Senate by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to replace resigning Senator Thad Cochran.
As for Thornell’s reference to voter suppression — on November 3, Hyde-Smith said the following regarding youth votes while in Starkville, Mississippi: “And then they remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don’t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”
After the video was released, Hyde-Smith spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said the remarks was “obviously…a joke,” adding that the video was “selectively edited.”
According to Clarion Ledger, Scallan also provided context to the incident captured on camera, claiming that prior to the recording, an MSU student asked Hyde-Smith “if she would support improving access to voting on college campuses.” The senator allegedly approved of the idea, then joked about progressive university students having a more difficult time.
When she says, “That’s a great idea,” Hyde-Smith was reportedly referring to the additional polling access.
Journalist Lamer White, who tweeted the original video, claims to have the full remarks on film, but says it would be “irresponsible and reckless” to show the entire video because there are underage individuals who would need to be edited out.
White does, however, provide an extended version in which it’s nearly impossible to hear what is said prior to the known quote: