Trump: Senator’s ‘hanging’ remark was said in jest

Associated Press


President Donald Trump is defending a Republican U.S. senator from Mississippi who praised one of her own supporters by saying she would attend a “public hanging” if the supporter invited her – a remark that has stirred strong emotions in a state with a history of racially motivated lynchings.

Trump said at the White House on Tuesday that Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is “a tremendous woman” who loves the people of Mississippi and the U.S.

A video published Nov. 11 shows Hyde-Smith praising a supporter at a Nov. 2 campaign event in Tupelo by saying: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” She said in a statement that the expression was an “exaggerated expression of regard” and said it is “ridiculous” to read any negative connotation into it, but she has refused to answer questions about it.

Hyde-Smith is expected to face more questions Tuesday night as she faces Democrat Mike Espy in their only debate. Espy, a former congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary, is seeking to become the state’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction

Walmart asked Hyde-Smith to return a $2,000 campaign contribution because of the hanging remark.

“It was just sort of said in jest,” Trump said, defending Hyde-Smith. “She’s a tremendous woman and it’s a shame that she has to go through this.”

Hyde-Smith’s campaign did not respond to questions from The Associated Press about whether it would refund Walmart’s contribution. Campaign spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said the senator was focusing on debate preparation.

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