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Walmart withdraws donations to Cindy Hyde-Smith after criticism

The retail giant said it was "requesting a refund of all campaign donations" amid backlash over donating to the GOP senator after her "public hanging" remark.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith talks to supporters in in Jackson, Mississippi, on Nov. 6, 2018.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith talks to supporters in in Jackson, Mississippi, on Nov. 6, 2018.Chris TOdd / EPA file

Walmart on Tuesday said it was "requesting a refund" from the campaign of Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith after the company came under pressure to distance itself from the Mississippi lawmaker's "public hanging" remark.

Campaign finance records show that the company made a $2,000 donation on Nov. 18, nearly a week after a video of Hyde-Smith saying she would be "on the front row" if a supporter invited her to "a public hanging" went viral. Records also show the company gave a $1,000 contribution to her campaign this past June.

The retail giant announced its decision to withdraw its support from Hyde-Smith in response to actress Debra Messing, who tweeted about the issue on Monday.

"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," the company said in a tweet.

Hyde-Smith's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Hyde-Smith has previously denied there was any negative connotation to her "public hanging" remark, which drew sharp rebuke from both sides. Critics noted that the comments were especially hurtful given Mississippi's history of racial violence and lynching against African Americans.

Hyde-Smith faces a runoff election on Nov. 27 against former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, who is African-American.

In a statement on Tuesday, Espy's campaign said Walmart's decision to withdraw its support shows why Hyde-Smith "can't be trusted to work with the businesses" Mississippi wants to attract.

"Cindy 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," said Danny Blanton, the campaign's communication director. "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."

Popular Info, a progressive newsletter, was the first to report Walmart's donation to her campaign.

Her campaign has also been rocked allegations of supporting voter suppression after another video surfaced last week of her saying it might be a "great idea" to make it harder for some people to vote. Her campaign, however, quickly responded that the senator "obviously" was "making a joke and clearly the video was selectively edited."

Then, on Friday in a since-deleted tweet, Hyde-Smith's account posted a picture apparently aimed at quelling criticism of the episode, but it soon prompted further backlash.

The picture of two students smiling was accompanied by a caption that read, "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."

However, a young black man who said that he was one of the students in the photo excoriated the senator for posting the picture, claiming she only posted it because he is black.

“As a Political Science major I want to understand and inform myself about every candidate. But I do not, however, support Cindy Hyde Smith. I am disgusted,” a Twitter user with the name JR Coleman tweeted on Friday. “We were not laughing in regards to her terrible statements, and I don’t appreciate this post trying to make it seem so.”

Her campaign account has removed the tweet.

Then on Monday, her campaign was forced to return a $2,700 donation from a Seattle businessman who was sued for discriminating against Muslims.