Walmart is “requesting a refund” from Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign, following backlash over the Mississippi politician’s “public hanging” remark.
In a tweeted response to “Will & Grace” actress Debra Messing, Walmart said, “Sen. Hyde-Smith’s recent comments clearly do not reflect the values of our company and associates. As a result, we are withdrawing our support and requesting a refund of all campaign donations.”
At a campaign stop in Tupelo, Mississippi, Hyde-Smith told a supporter that, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” The quote was first reported on November 11 by Lamar White, Jr. of the Bayou Brief, a local nonprofit publication.
Hyde-Smith’s remark has been condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike, given the legacy of racial violence and lynching in Mississippi. Her election opponent former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy is African-American.
Initially, Hyde-Smith declined to apologize for the remark. “In a comment on November 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement,” her campaign said in a statement. “In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.” However, on Tuesday at a debate, Hyde-Smith formally apologized for the comment.
Hyde-Smith was appointed to the US Senate following the resignation of Thad Cochran due to health issues. In a special election held on November 6, neither Hyde-Smith nor Espy reached the requisite percentage of votes. The two are headed for a runoff on November 27.
On November 18, the Walmart PAC for Responsible Government donated $2,000 to Hyde-Smith’s campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records. The PAC previously donated $1,000 to the Hyde-Smith campaign, according to Open Secrets.
The progressive newsletter Popular Information first reported about the donation, and Messing tweeted about it drawing a response from Walmart.
Espy’s campaign communication director Danny Blanton responded to Walmart’s withdrawal of support and request for a refund, saying that Hyde-Smith’s “comments have embarrassed Mississippi and shown why she can’t be trusted to work with the businesses Mississippi needs to grow good paying jobs.”
“We’re confident that voters will follow Walmart’s lead and dump Cindy Hyde-Smith before she has the power to do real damage to our economy,” he continued, according to NBC News.
This is not the only controversy that has followed the Hyde-Smith campaign. On Tuesday, November 20, Facebook photos from 2014 were reported on by Politico. In one photo, Hyde-Smith puts on a Confederate soldier hat while visiting the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, and the caption includes the quote “Mississippi history at its best!”
Davis was the president of the Confederacy, which seceded from the Union and fought in the Civil War over slavery.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump defended Hyde-Smith over her “pubic hanging” comments.
“She made a statement, which I know she feels badly about it, and it was just sort of said in jest,” Trump told reporters. “She is a tremendous woman and it is a shame that she has to go through this.”
INSIDER contacted the Hyde-Smith campaign for comment on Walmart’s request for a refund and the Facebook photos and will update as necessary.