Nearly two weeks after a video went viral showing Mississippi's embattled Republican senator appearing to make a joke about lynching, The Jackson Free Press reports that Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith attended an all-white segregation academy in the 1970s. Years later, she reportedly sent her daughter to one, too.
A photograph published Friday by The Jackson Free Press appears to show Hyde-Smith as a member of the Lawrence County Academy cheer squad when her name was Cindy Hyde. Another photo in the 1975 Lawrence County Academy yearbook shows that she was named the school's "wittiest" female student. The high school was established as a segregated school for whites seeking to bypass the integration required at public schools, according to the paper.
A spokesperson for Hyde-Smith called The Jackson Free Press' report "a new low" aimed at aiding Hyde-Smith's political opponent in a statement emailed to Bustle. "In their latest attempt to help Mike Espy, the gotcha liberal media has taken leave of their senses," spokeswoman Melissa Scallan tells Bustle. "They have stooped to a new low, attacking her entire family and trying to destroy her personally instead of focusing on the clear differences on the issues between Cindy Hyde-Smith and her far-left opponent."
But according to The Jackson Free Press, Hyde-Smith also chose to send her daughter to Brookhaven Academy, a school first established as a segregation academy in 1970. According to Jackson Free Press reporter Ashton Pittman, Brookhaven Academy retains a largely white student population despite being located in a fairly diverse town. Whereas Brookhaven is 55 percent black and 43 percent white, Brookhaven Academy had 386 white students, 5 Asian students, and just one black student in 2016, according to Pittman.
The Jackson Free Press report comes nearly two weeks after video footage surfaced of Hyde-Smith saying she'd be "on the front row" if invited to a "public hanging" by a supporter. Although she initially refused to apologize for her comment, she later issued an apology to "anyone that was offended."
The senator maintained, however, that her words had been "twisted" and "turned into a weapon to be used against me," TIME magazine reported. "There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements," she said. According to The Hill, Hyde-Smith claimed the phrase was an "exaggerated expression of regard" intended to show how highly she thought of her supporter.
A few days later, a second video surfaced in which Hyde-Smith can be heard telling a crowd that she'd been reminded 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," she continued. "And I think that's a great idea."
When poor health forced Republican Sen. Thad Cochran to retire in April, Hyde-Smith was appointed to replace him in the U.S. Senate. But Mississippi voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether she'll keep the seat, or Espy will replace her following the state's special election runoff.