Ahead of the midterm elections, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) attended a speaking event and, in thanking a cattle rancher for his support, said: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
A few weeks later, and after a video depicting the comment was made public, Hyde-Smith’s campaign received a $2,000 donation from Walmart, according to documents filed with FEC.
As Hyde-Smith continues to deflect questions on her remarks, many national campaign contributors, including Walmart, are asking for their money back.
In a Twitter response to actress Debra Messing, who shared on twitter about Walmart’s donation, the multinational retail company responded that they “completely understand [her] concern,” and will see that they retract their donation.
“Sen. Hyde-Smith’s recent comments clearly do not reflect the values of our company and associates,” Walmart tweeted Tuesday morning. “As a result, we are withdrawing our support and requesting a refund of all campaign donations.”
Several other firms are taking a stance on Hyde-Smith’s views and are, in turn, retracting their contributions. Among them are railroad company Union Pacific and defense contractor Leidos, which both recently donated $5,000 to Hyde-Smith’s campaign, as well as manufacturer Boston Scientific, which donated $2,500.
Hyde-Smith, a Republican incumbent, received the highest number of votes in a Senate special election on November 6, taking in 41.4 percent of the vote to 40.4 percent against her Democratic challenger, former US Rep. Mike Espy, who is black. The two will compete in a November 27 runoff for the seat.
Video of Hyde-Smith’s lynching remarks was released on social media last weekend, causing national uproar against the senator.
But Hyde-Smith never once backed down from her remarks. She issued a statement on November 11 that provided the context around her comments but nonetheless stood by them.
“I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement,” Hyde-Smith, also a former cattle rancher, said in the statement. “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.”
Since then, Hyde-Smith has time and time again avoided questions on her “public hanging” comment, directing reporters to the Sunday statement instead.
Espy and incumbent Hyde-Smith are running for a seat previously left vacant by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired in April amid health concerns. Hyde-Smith, the first woman in either chamber of Congress to represent the Magnolia State, was tapped by Gov. Phil Bryant to temporarily succeed Cochran.
Hyde-Smith was near-certain to last the two years left in the Senate term; the majority of the electorate that voted for the other Republican nominee in the special election, Chris McDaniel, would have likely cast their ballots for Hyde-Smith in the runoff, handing her the victory.
However, Hyde-Smith’s “joke” struck a chord in the deep-red Southern state — with some wondering whether it will now cost her the race.