Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is facing backlash for her remarks once again after saying laws that “make it just a little more difficult” for some college students to vote are “a great idea,” in a video tweeted Thursday afternoon.
The recording shows Hyde-Smith telling a small crowd in Starkville, Miss., that “They remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who 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.”
Hyde-Smith’s campaign released a statement Thursday saying that she was joking and that the video was “selectively edited.”
“Obviously Sen. Hyde-Smith was making a joke and clearly the video was selectively edited,” said Melissa Scallan, spokeswoman for the campaign. “Now the liberal media wants to talk about anything other than Mike Espy’s record of corruption and taking $750,000 — and lying about it — from an African dictator now charged with war crimes, including murder, rape and torture.”
In an email to The Washington Post, Scallan said the senator’s comments came Nov. 3 while Hyde-Smith was “talking to four freshmen at Mississippi State University about an idea to have polling places on college campuses.”
“That’s what she said was a great idea,” Scallan wrote. “Someone pointed out that college campuses were liberal and that’s when she made the joke about not wanting everyone to vote. That was a joke. The polling places on college campuses is what she said was a great idea.”
Scallan added, “The senator absolutely is not a racist and does not support voter suppression.”
The video was posted Thursday by Lamar White Jr., a blogger and journalist who also posted a video of Hyde-Smith this week in which she’s heard joking that if she were invited to a public hanging, she’d “be on the front row.”
In a statement put out by her campaign after that video went viral, Hyde-Smith suggested she was using “an exaggerated expression of regard.” She was reluctant to apologize or provide more context for her remark when she was questioned by reporters at a news conference Monday.
Hyde-Smith is facing Democrat Mike Espy in a Nov. 27 runoff to determine who will serve the remaining two years of Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s term. She became the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress in April when Cochran stepped down because of issues with his health.
In his own statement Thursday, Espy’s communication director, Danny Blanton, said Hyde-Smith talking about voter suppression was “not a laughing matter” and called her a “walking stereotype.”
“For a state like Mississippi, where voting rights were obtained through sweat and blood, everyone should appreciate that this is not a laughing matter,” Espy spokesman Danny Blanton said. “Mississippians deserve a senator who represents our best qualities, not a walking stereotype who embarrasses our state.”
In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, effectively allowing officials in Southern states like Mississippi to change election laws without federal approval.