Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) on Thursday dismissed comments about making voting it harder for liberal students to vote as a “joke,” claiming the video of her comments was “selectively edited.”
A local publisher on Thursday tweeted a video from a recent event where Hyde-Smith is talking to a group of people in front of her campaign bus that “maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult” for liberal students to go vote. The publisher, Lamar White, Jr., said the video was from a Nov. 3 campaign event in Starkville, Miss.
“Obviously Sen. Hyde-Smith was making a joke and clearly the video was selectively edited,” Hyde-Smith campaign spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said in a statement.
Hyde-Smith’s campaign told The Hill that the senator was talking to four students from Mississippi State University about putting polling places on college campuses, which is what she was referring to when she said “that’s a great idea.”
The latest video comes on the heels of the widespread backlash over Hyde-Smith joking about attending a “public hanging” in a state that has a history of lynchings and a significant African American population.
White Jr. was also the one who share the video of Hyde-Smith’s “public hanging” comments on Sunday.
Hyde-Smith’s campaign released a statement that she used an “exaggerated expression of regard” for the supporter she was campaigning with on Nov. 2.
She also dismissed the negative interpretations of the remark as “ridiculous.” Since then, she’s declined to answer questions about the comments, referring reporters to that initial statement.
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Hyde-Smith faces former Agriculture Sec. Mike Espy in the Nov. 27 runoff to serve out the remaining two years of former Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranEspy wins Mississippi Senate Democratic primary Bottom Line Mike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid MORE’s (R) seat. Neither candidate won over 50 percent of the vote in last Tuesday’s elections, forcing them into a runoff.
Espy is vying to become the first black senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction. Espy has called the “public hangings” remark “reprehensible” and “hurtful.”
The fallout over the “public hanging” comments has shaken up the race in the deep-red state, fueling Democratic hopes that they can pull off another upset in a southern state especially after Sen. Doug Jones’s (D) victory in last year’s Alabama special election.
Republicans still believe Hyde-Smith goes into the runoff as the front-runner, but are concerned the comments help Espy mobilize his base in the likely low-turnout runoff that’s held five days after Thanksgiving.
The comments have prompted national committees and super PACs on both sides of the aisle to go on the airwaves in the remaining weeks.
Meanwhile, Politico reported on Thursday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE, who carried the state by 18 points in 2016, is weighing a pre-runoff visit to Mississippi, though plans haven’t been finalized.
The campaign of Hyde-Smith’s Democratic opponent, Mike Espy, pushed back on the comments, noting the difficulty of achieving voting rights in Mississippi. “For a state like Mississippi, where voting rights were obtained through sweat and blood, everyone should appreciate that this is not a laughing matter,” said Espy campaign spokesman Danny Blanton.
“Mississippians deserve a senator who represents our best qualities, not a walking stereotype who embarrasses our state.”