A Republican senatorial candidate facing a runoff election in Mississippi has found herself embroiled in controversy this month after making remarks about a hypothetical "public hanging." The comments were so divisive that some of Cindy Hyde-Smith's campaign donors want their money back, according to multiple reports.
Hyde-Smith was at a speaking event leading up to November's midterms when she remarked of a supporter that "If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row." Many critics were upset about what she said, namely because "public hanging" is just another term for "lynching." The history of so-called "public hanging" is devastating on its own, but its appearance in Hyde-Smith's offhand comments is only compounded by the fact that she represents Mississippi, which had the most lynchings in the United States between 1877 and 1950, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Among companies to ask for their campaign contributions back from Hyde-Smith are Walmart, Union Pacific, Leidos, Boston Scientific, and AT&T, according to Vox. Walmart announced its decisions in a tweet on Tuesday, after actor Debra Messing shared an article about how Walmart's donation to Hyde-Smith took place after her lynching comments.
"We hear you, Chris," the corporation responded. "Sen. Hyde-Smith's comments don't reflect the values of our company and associates. We want you to know we're withdrawing our support and requesting a refund."
Other companies that have made significant donations to Hyde-Smith are Amazon, Amgen, Google, Honeywell, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, Nucor and Tyson Foods, according to CNBC. Bustle has reached out to all of these companies for comment.
In a statement shared with several different outlets, including CNN, Google distanced itself from Hyde-Smith. "This contribution was made on Nov. 2 before Sen. Hyde-Smith's (hanging) remarks became public on Nov. 11," the company said in a statement. "While we support candidates who promote pro-growth policies for business and technology, we do not condone these remarks and would have not made such a contribution had we known about them."
President Donald Trump has defended Hyde-Smith in the midst of the ongoing controversy and praised her performance in the Senate. At the White House on Tuesday, Trump also said that the her comment was "sort of said in jest," according to video shared by ABC News.
"Cindy Hyde-Smith is a spectacular woman," Trump told reporters. "She’s a great senator. She came in, she’s done a fantastic job in a short period of time. She made a statement which I know that she feels very badly about it. And it was just sort of said in jest, as she said. And she’s a tremendous woman and it’s a shame that she has to go through this."
The president added that he believed Hyde-Smith would do well in her runoff election, which is scheduled to take place on Nov. 27, when she once again faces Democrat Mike Espy. Each candidate received about 41 percent of the vote in the initial election earlier this month, triggering the runoff. A week out, it's not clear who will ultimately win the race.