Espy says Hyde-Smith's 'public hanging' remark gave Mississippi 'another black eye'

Mississippi Senate candidate Mike Espy (D) said Tuesday that his opponent, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), has given the state a "black eye" and "rejuvenated old stereotypes" with her comments captured on video that she would be in the "front row" if she were invited to a "public hanging."

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Hyde-Smith addressed the backlash to her comments during a debate with Espy on Tuesday. She insisted her words were "twisted" and that she meant "no ill will."

"No one twisted your comments because the comments were live, you know, it came out of your mouth," Espy said in response. "I don’t know what’s in your heart, but we all know what came out of your mouth."

"It’s caused our state harm," he continued. "It’s given our state another black eye that we don’t need. It’s just rejuvenated old stereotypes that we don't need anymore."

Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to replace former Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTop 5 races to watch in 2019 Bottom Line Races Dems narrowly lost show party needs to return to Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy MORE (R-Miss.) earlier this year, apologized to those who were offended by her comments. She turned the blame around on Espy, claiming he had used the remarks as a "political weapon."

"I never intended any ill will toward anyone with any of my comments," she said. "It was never there. My comments were taken and twisted and used as a political weapon against me by my opponent, and that is just wrong."

Espy and Hyde-Smith held Tuesday's debate one week before they are set to square off in a runoff election. They were the top two finishers in an election earlier this month, but neither secured the 50 percent of votes necessary to avoid a runoff.

Hyde-Smith's "public hanging" comments, which were recorded on Nov. 2 and surfaced on Nov. 11, upended the race, drawing backlash from civil rights organizations and some residents. Walmart ended its financial support of her campaign over the comments.

She repeatedly declined to apologize prior to Tuesday's debate, instead claiming negative connotations associated with her comments were "ridiculous."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE will visit the state next week on the eve of the vote in an effort to boost her candidacy.