The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is one of several big-name companies calling on Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith to return their campaign donations after a video surfaced on social media in which she talks about attending a “public hanging.”
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Hyde-Smith is in a tight runoff election race with Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman who would be the state’s first African-American senator since the 1800s.
“We condemn racism and bigotry in all its forms,” Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo told ABC News Tuesday. “We are withdrawing our support and have requested a full refund of our contributions, which were made months in advance of the senator’s comments.”
Pfizer has made two contributions totaling $5,000.
The video in question shows Hyde-Smith in Tupelo, Mississippi, embracing a supporter and saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row”- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith says in Tupelo, MS after Colin Hutchinson, cattle rancher, praises her.
Hyde-Smith is in a runoff on Nov 27th against Mike Espy. pic.twitter.com/0a9jOEjokr
— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) November 11, 2018
After the video was posted on Twitter, Hyde-Smith did not apologize but defended herself.
“In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement,” she 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.”
When actress Debra Messing criticized Walmart for its donation to Hyde-Smith, the company responded that the senator’s comments “clearly do not reflect the values of our company and associates.”
Hi Debra. Completely understand your concern. 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.
— Walmart (@Walmart) November 20, 2018
We were not aware of Senator Hyde-Smith’s remarks when this contribution was made on November 8, and we have requested a refund. We reject the Senator’s statements, which are not aligned with our company’s core values.
— Boston Scientific (@bostonsci) November 19, 2018
Walmart requested a full refund of $4,000 Tuesday, according to a company spokesperson.
Other companies, including AT&T, Leidos and Boston Scientific, have requested refunds of $2,000, $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.
Sen. Hyde-Smith’s campaign did not immediately comment.
Four days after the first video surfaced, another video from Nov. 3 was tweeted in which Hyde-Smith tells a group of supporters in Starkville, Mississippi, that it would be a “great idea” to make voting “just a little more difficult” for “liberal folks.”
Cindy Hyde-Smith on voter suppression: “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. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.” Nov 2nd in Columbus, MS. pic.twitter.com/OxNY77XCft
— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) November 15, 2018
Hyde-Smith’s campaign once again refused to apologize and released a statement saying, “Obviously Sen. Hyde-Smith was making a joke and clearly the video was selectively edited.”
Hyde-Smith, appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant, is facing the runoff with Espy after she netted 41.4 percent of the vote on Election Day while Espy had 40.6 percent.