Referring to the supporter, the Republican senator says that if he "invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row". Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to the seat, is in a November 27 runoff against Mike Espy in this non-partisan race.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson drew a parallel from Hyde-Smith's remarks to President Donald Trump.
Her opponent, Mike Espy, who would be the first Black U.S. Senator since Reconstruction (1883), condemned Hyde-Smith's comments as "reprehensible". "Her choice of words serves as an indictment of not only her lack of judgment, but her lack of empathy, and most of all character". She said it was an "exaggerated expression of regard" for the individual who had invited her to speak and "any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous".
Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississipi, released a statement Monday calling the senator's comments on public hanging "beyond disrespectful and offensive", adding that Mississippi's history includes "one of the highest numbers of public lynching, that we know of, than any other state in this country". Whoever wins the runoff election on November 27 gets the final two years of Cochran's term. Thad Cochran (R) resigned in April 2018 citing health issues.
"I put out a statement yesterday, and that's all I'm going to say about it", she said. Espy is a former congressman and former USA agriculture secretary.
"I can't reach into her heart and determine why that came out of her mouth", Espy said.
Hyde-Smith and Espy were the top performers on Election Day, but neither candidate garnered 50 percent of the vote, triggering a runoff.
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Mississippi's racial past is deeply mired with pain and ugliness.
From 1882-1968, MS saw 581 cases - the highest of any state, with the overwhelming majority of victims black, according to the NAACP website.
Mississippi Senate contender Mike Espy...
The midterm election has stirred a debate about the role of race in US politics as Democrats and other observers have accused Republicans across the country of appealing to racial animus. "She meant no offense by that statement".
AP VoteCast, a survey of the electorate, showed significant differences in voting behavior by age and race in Mississippi's special election.
Hyde-Smith was appointed to the post by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant after former-U.S. Sen.