JACKSON, miss. – Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith from Mississippi on Tuesday took part in the discussion to express regret for having made a cavalier reference to "public hanging", trying to strengthen her campaign a little more than a week after she jeopardized her prospects against former congressman Mike Espi in the state affected by racial violence.
Insisting that her comments, captured on video and immediately rebounding via the Internet, reflected “unhealthy will,” said Republican Ms. Hyde-Smith: “For those who were offended by my comments, I, of course, I apologize.
But of having been the only joint appearance in the Senate elections next week, she immediately accused Mr. Espy, a Democrat, of wielding her mistakes, complaining that her words were perverted.
“No one twisted your comments,” Mr. Espy replied, adding: “It came out of your mouth. I don't know what's in your heart, but we all know what came out of your mouth.
The first African American in Mississippi, elected to Congress after Reconstruction, Mr. Espy said that Hyde-Smith’s statement "gave our state another black eye."
And he tried to use a mixture of anger and embarrassment that some voters in Mississippi felt on those days when a liberal blogger published a footage of a senator praising a supporter, saying that if he invited her "to the public hanging, I would be at the front row."
The commentary, Mr. Espy said, "just rejuvenated old stereotypes that we no longer need."
But the former legislator, who was out of public life for 25 years, until he entered this race, did not completely reconsider the issue that caused the competition, in which Ms. Hyde-Smith was a heavy favorite, until his final statement,
Ms. Hyde-Smith used most of the hour-long debates to accept President Trump and attack Mr. Espy as too liberal for Mississippi, quoting a number of lines of attack and arguing that "conservative values are on the ballot."
Ms. Hyde-Smith and Mr. Espi met a week before the runoff, which will be the final election of the mid-2018 season. And even before they came to the scene at the headquarters of the farm bureau in this state capital, the stakes of the race and the debate were clearly clarified outside of Mississippi.
President Trump, who will return to the states on Monday for a couple of rallies aimed at saving Hyde-Smith's candidacy, used an impromptu meeting of Q. and A. with journalists in the White House to protect her and minimize her comments.
“This is just a joke,” Mr. Trump said. "She is an amazing woman, and it is a shame that she needs to go through this."
But the consequences of Ms. Hyde-Smith’s erroneous actions showed no signs of weakening: on Tuesday, Walmart, the largest retailer in the country, asked her to return a $ 2,000 contribution made by her political action commission to her campaign, Espy at the debate.
"Senator Hyde Smith's recent comments clearly do not reflect the values of our company and partners," a Walmart spokesman said in a statement. Walmart was the third company that refused to support the senator.
While next week's results will not affect the balance of power in the Senate, if Mr. Espi was to upset, it would limit the Republican chances in the Senate by one place this year.
That both parties even compete here is extraordinary. The Democrat has not won the Senate seat in Mississippi since 1982, and few in any of the parties believe that these special elections will break this lane. But last week, a video appeared from Ms. Hyde-Smith, who was appointed this year to fill in the remaining tenure of former Senator Thad Cochran, telling an ally that if he invited her “to the public gallows, I would be at the front row . "
Until Tuesday, she refused to address her comments in a video that was released by a liberal blogger. And in a press conference about another question immediately after the comments appeared, she only pointed to a written statement published by her campaign — repeating the “I state the statement” eight times.
Her survey advantage declined, companies withdrew their contributions to it, and liberal money flooded for Mr. Espi. The Republicans switched to sending Mr. Trump to Mississippi, planning ahead of the Tupelo and Biloxi elections.
For her part, Ms. Hyde-Smith largely departed from public view after the “public hanging” video, and the other in which she was caught joked about suppressing voters, which makes the forum on Tuesday evening especially important for her candidacy.