Mississippi's Senate race hasn't come to an end — and neither has the controversy surrounding comments one candidate made about a "public hanging."
In a video that surfaced Sunday, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is seen telling a man standing with her at what appears to be a Nov. 2 campaign event that "if he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." Hyde-Smith has been asked several times about the comments, and has used every opportunity to double down on her unapologetic statement about the video, The Associated Press reports.
In the statement, Hyde-Smith defended her comments as "an exaggerated expression of regard," adding that "any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous." And when accepting an endorsement from the National Right to Life Committee on Monday, Hyde-Smith again referred questioning reporters to that statement, per AP.
Her comments hit a nerve, especially considering Hyde-Smith's Democratic opponent, former agriculture secretary Mike Espy, is black. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., pointed out that Mississippi has a long history of lynching, and called the senator's comments "a reminder ... that racism is still a festering, pervasive evil in the U.S."
Hyde-Smith was appointed to fill Sen. Thad Cochran's (R) seat after he retired amid health concerns, and has served in the Senate since April. Both she and Espy failed to reach the 50 percent threshold in last week's Senate special election, so they will face each other once more during a runoff on Nov. 27. Hyde-Smith is expected to win the deep red state. Kathryn Krawczyk