Hyde-Smith demanded no press, audience at debate: report

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s (R-Miss.) reelection campaign demanded that no outside audience or press be allowed to attend her scheduled Tuesday night debate against Democrat Mike Espy, according to the Jackson Free Press.

That means the debate will feature only the debate moderator, panelists and production team, despite the opposition from Espy’s campaign, the newspaper reported, citing two sources familiar with the debate negotiations.

The debate comes at a time when Hyde-Smith has been under pressure after video shared by a blogger showed her joking that she’d be “on the front row” should a supporter she was campaigning with invite her to a “public hanging.”

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Hyde-Smith has said she made the comment in jest and repeatedly declined to comment on the matter beyond a statement describing the remark as an "exaggerated expression of regard" for a supporter.

Espy, who is running to be Mississippi’s first black senator since Reconstruction, ripped the comment as "reprehensible" and "hurtful."

The Hyde-Smith campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill on the Jackson Free Press report.

The Espy campaign slammed Hyde-Smith for imposing limits on the debate.

“The Espy campaign fought for access and transparency for tonight’s debate. Cindy Hyde-Smith has limited access for the press and for the people of Mississippi at every step of her campaign, because she knows she can’t answer the tough questions," Danny Blanton, communications director for the Espy campaign, said in a statement to The Hill.

Hyde-Smith and Espy are set to face off in a runoff on Nov. 27 after neither won more than 50 percent of the vote in a four-way special election earlier this month. 

The Mississippi senator, who was appointed to the Senate to fill former Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE's (R) seat, also made headlines this week after Walmart said it would end its financial support for Hyde-Smith after the "public hanging" comments.

Meanwhile, a photo posted on Facebook from 2014 in which Hyde-Smith is wearing a Confederate soldier's hat resurfaced this week. She took the photo while visiting former Confederate President Jefferson Davis's home, according to her caption.