“Rock-solid conservative” Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi to Luther and Lorraine Hyde in 1959.
In 1964, an important Klan meeting was held in Brookhaven, population then around 9,000. It was a February night so it may have been cold, for Mississippi. More than 200 members of the Ku Klux Klan met in Brookhaven under the cover of darkness. With local Samuel Bowers leading the group, it was decided that the KKK was not aggressive enough and so the gathered Klansmen created the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan with Bowers the Imperial Wizard. That name is likely familiar; Bowers was convicted of murdering Civil Rights activists and was accused of bombing Jewish targets in Mississippi in 1967, accused by the man convicted of the bombings. The movie ‘Mississippi Burning’ was based on the case of missing, and then found murdered, activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Bowers served six years.
On Sunday morning, Nov. 11, video of a comment made by Hyde-Smith made while stumping in Tupelo has sparked outrage. She said, referring to supporter cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
Some have suggested that Hyde Smith’s comments on the campaign trail heading toward a run-off election against Mike Espy, an African-American Democrat, were insensitive at best and racist at worst given the state’s history: Mississippi legally hanged 177 people from 1804 until 1920; 134 of them were black, including two black women. The remaining 43 executed white men were convicted murders. This does not take into account lynchings. And that’s the crux of the debate if her remarks can be debated.
Hyde says any negative connotation perceived by her remarks is “ridiculous.” But saying she’d be in the “front row at a public hanging” if invited, has led many to equate her remarks with lynchings. To be clear: a lynching is when a mob, sans due process, hangs a person. Mississippi has the singular distinction of having lynched more African-Americans than any other state from 1882 to 1968; 539 men, women and even children.
Hyde said the brouhaha over what she said is laughable.
“In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.”
But some voters say given Mississippi’s history, and current politics, based on, for example, the T-shirt that reads Mississippi Justice, with a Confederate flag and noose, worn by a now-fired registered nurse and former disgraced police officer Clayton Hickey to the polls and seen by countless other voters, things have not changed that much.
Days after the video surfaced, another damning video emerged. This one where she spoke about voter suppression, which she now claims was a joke.
“And then they remind me, that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don’t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”
“It’s ok to still have a sense of humor in America isn’t it,” she asked on Twitter in a now-deleted tweet that features her laughing with two young men, one black and one white.
The video of Hyde-Smith was reported to have been recorded in Starkville, MS, on Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, the political science student pictured in her ‘is it ok to still have a sense of humor’ tweet, JR Coleman, said he does not support Hyde-Smith.
He said he’s laughing, but not at her ‘joke’ about voter suppression. He said she used the image “because I am black.”
Since Coleman took to Twitter, Hyde-Smith deleted the tweet.