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Senator Side-steps "Public Hanging" Questions

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Senator Side-steps "Public Hanging" Questions
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Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks at an anti-abortion press conference Mon.
Ezra Wall

Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is under scrutiny after joking about attending a public hanging. MPB's Ezra Wall reports.

Hyde-Smith spoke to reporters Monday, refusing to comment on a social media video in which she says she would be "on the front row" of a public hanging. Instead, she repeatedly cited a vague, written statement calling the quip "an exaggerated expression of regard" for someone who had invited her to speak.

"We put out a statement yesterday," Hyde-Smith repeatedly said, "and we stand by the statement."

Hyde-Smith faces Democrat Mike Espy in a runoff election for U.S. Senate on November 27th. The winner will permanently succeed retired Senator Thad Cochran, a job Hyde-Smith has been doing on a temporary basis since April.

Hyde-Smith's comments have been scorned because the notion of public hanging brings to mind the lynching of African-Americans across the south between the end of the Civil War and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

But Espy tells CNN Mississippi's violent history is not the only reason Hyde-Smith's comments are wrong.

"And they're harmful because they tend to reinforce the stereotypes that have held back our state for so long," says Espy, "and that have cost us jobs and harmed our economy."

Estimates vary, but as many as 650 known lynchings of black Mississippians took place between 1882 and 1968.