Video of Hyde-Smith at Starkville campaign event spurs backlash

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith at a campaign event in Starkville on Nov. 3, where the candidate was on video saying what many believe to be language supporting voter suppression (Photo by Briana Rucker, SDN)

SDN Editor

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is weathering even more backlash ahead of the Nov. 27 runoff after a video surfaced on social media Thursday which some believe shows the candidate talking in favor of voter suppression — an accusation the Hyde-Smith camp vehemently denies.  

First posted by Lamar White, Jr., publisher of the nonprofit digital news publication Bayou Brief, the 17-second somewhat candid video appears to show Hyde-Smith talking to supporters in front of her bus during a campaign stop in Starkville on Nov. 3 at The Mill.  


"And then they remind me, that there's a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don't want to vote,” Hyde-Smith can be heard saying during the Starkville campaign stop.” Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that's a great idea."

The comment, which has stirred outcry, particularly among supporters of Democratic challenger Mike Espy, came just a day after Hyde-Smith was recorded saying she would attend a public hanging if invited by a supporter — a comment which also prompted a widespread denunciation.

Hyde-Smith’s Communications Director Melissa Scallan told the Starkville Daily News that at the event, the candidate walked up to four freshman and began talking to them, where she brought up an initiative that Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office has talked about regarding polling places on college campuses. 

“She said (the polling place initiative) is a great idea, that’s what she was referring to, the idea to put polling places on college campuses,” Scallan said. “I think it’s obvious to me and most people who watch this that she was making a joke and it’s really sad when you can’t joke with college kids and not have people say awful things about you. 

“Anybody who knows Cindy Hyde-Smith knows she’s not a racist and not in favor voter suppression,” she added. “It was a visit on a college campus where her daughter attends school.” 

In the immediate aftermath of the Starkville video being posted, Hyde-Smith also took to Twitter, sharing a photo depicting the senator at the event speaking with two seemingly college-age supporters. 

“It’s ok to still have a sense of humor in America isn’t it? These students enjoyed a laugh with Cindy despite out of state social media posts trying to mislead Mississippians,” the tweet says. 

Her campaign addressed the most recent video on Twitter while also taking an open swipe at Espy, saying: “Obviously Sen. Hyde-Smith was making a joke and clearly the video was selectively edited. Now the liberal media wants to talk about anything other than Mike Espy’s record of corruption and taking $750k from an African dictator now charged with war crimes.” 

Hyde-Smith’s mention of corruption on the part of Espy originates from a Fox News report that claims Espy, a former congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary, was paid $750,000 as part of a lobbying contract with President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivory Coast government in 2011. 

Other Republicans once again rallied to Hyde-Smith’s corner, including Mississippi GOP Chairman Lucien Smith, who claimed the video was manipulated, with a timed release, to coincide with the aforementioned Espy story. 

“Pro tip: always keep a heavily edited misleading video in the can just in case a story drops that you took nearly a million dollars to lobby for a ruthless dictator who killed his people after losing an election,” Lucien Smith said on Twitter Thursday night. 

The Espy campaign also released a statement after the video surfaced, saying Hyde-Smith was talking about voter suppression with a group of supporters. 

“For a state like Mississippi, where voting rights were obtained through blood, everyone should appreciate that this is not a laughing matter,” said Espy’s Communication Director Danny Blanton. 
“Mississippians deserve a senator who represents our best qualities, not a walking stereotype who embarrasses our state.” 

The Mississippi Democratic Party also chimed in with a statement Thursday night, saying Hyde-Smith “continues to embarrass our state,” with her most recent comment, which the party believes condones limiting the right to vote.  

“Last time it was her mumming up without explaining her comments on public hangings,” the Democratic statement says. “Once again her friends try to wish away her words that do not fit our Mississippi values.  Once again, in the span of five days, Senator Smith should try to gather enough political courage to explain herself to the state she wishes to represent.”