Walmart withdraws financial support from GOP senator over 'public hanging' remark

Walmart is ending its financial support for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) after video surfaced earlier this month of the senator saying she'd be in the "front row" of a "public hanging" if invited.

"Hyde-Smith’s recent comments clearly do not reflect the values of our company and associates," Walmart said in a statement on Twitter. "As a result, we are withdrawing our support and requesting a refund of all campaign donations."

Walmart's statement came in response to a tweet from actress Debra Messing, who posted an article from Popular Information reporting that the retail giant contributed $2,000 to Hyde-Smith's campaign on Nov. 18, about a week after Hyde-Smith's comments became public. 

Walmart said it is also asking for Hyde-Smith, who is facing Democrat Mike Espy in a runoff election on Nov. 27, to return its donation.

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The move from the company comes as the GOP senator faces growing scrutiny over her comments about a "public hanging." The use of the term provoked notable backlash considering Mississippi's history of lynchings of African-Americans. 

"Those comments that we heard ... are very disappointing," Espy said in a statement. "They are hurtful and they are harmful.

"I mean this is 2018. We are going here in Mississippi into the third decade of the 21st century and we just should not have this."

The Hill has reached out to Hyde-Smith’s campaign for comment.

Hyde-Smith has pushed back against criticism she’s received for the comments. In a statement, she said the remarks were "an exaggerated expression of regard."

In addition to Walmart, Union Pacific announced on Monday that it plans to ask Hyde-Smith to refund its contribution.

“Union Pacific in no way, shape or form condones or supports divisive or perceived to be divisive statements,” the railroad franchise said in a statement on Twitter. “Our contribution was mailed prior to Hyde-Smith's statement being made public.” 

Hyde-Smith’s race against Espy advanced to a runoff after neither candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote in the special election.

Since then, Hyde-Smith has attracted criticism for the “public hanging” remark and for saying at a campaign event that “maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult” for liberal students to go vote.

Melissa Scallan, a spokeswoman for Hyde-Smith, said the senator was “making a joke” and that video from the event was “selectively edited.”