Derrick Johnson, the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who is from MS himself, said that the senator's decision to joke about public hangings "in a state known for its violent and terroristic history" toward African-Americans was "sick" and "shameful". "We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgement to represent the people of our state".
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., insisted Sunday that she was complimenting a supporter when she said, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row", a comment that was captured in a video recording.
The former Agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton said Hyde-Smith's comments were not only "disappointing to millions of Mississippians of good will", but also were "very harmful".
For her part, Hyde-Smith previously distributed a brief statement stating she, "used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous".
The comment drew a rebuke from the campaign of Hyde-Smith's Senate challenger in the November 27 runoff, Mike Espy, a Democrat who is black.
"I put out a statement yesterday, and that's all I'm going to say about it", she said.
Cindy Hyde-Smith can be seen saying in a clip that was posted Sunday on Twitter by journalist and blogger Lamar White, Jr. The NAACP website says that between 1882 and 1968, there were 4,743 lynchings in the United States, and almost 73 percent of the victims were black.
Hyde-Smith is challenged by former congressman and former USA agriculture secretary Mike Espy. It shows Hyde-Smith speaking to a small group in Tupelo, Miss., standing with cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson. McDaniel is an anti-establishment conservative who had been encouraged to run against Hyde-Smith by none other than former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Hyde-Smith sought to clarify her remarks in a statement issued Sunday.
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. However, Espy pulled out of the debate when Hyde-Smith failed to confirm her participation, prompting Mississippi Public Broadcasting to cancel the event.