Trump defends Hyde-Smith, says she apologized for 'public hanging' comment
Posted November 26, 2018 3:38 p.m. EST
(CNN) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he's spoken with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith about her comments referencing a "public hanging" and suggested her apology should suffice.
"I know her. And I know she apologized. And she misspoke," Trump told reporters on the South Lawn as he left to hold a pair of rallies supporting Hyde-Smith in Mississippi.
"I've known her for a period of time now as a senator," he said. "She's been an excellent senator. She's done a great job. She's somebody that's respected in the Senate."
Hyde-Smith joked about going "front row" to a "public hanging" in a video posted to Twitter earlier this month, prompting her African-American opponent to call her comment "reprehensible." She faces former Democratic Rep. Mike Espy in a runoff election on Tuesday.
"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row," Hyde-Smith is heard saying in the video.
The comment called up dark memories of lynchings in the state. Asked about it in a recent debate, Hyde-Smith said she would "certainly apologize" to anyone who was offended, but then pivoted to an attack on her opponent.
"This comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me," Hyde-Smith said. "A political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent. That's the type of politics Mississippians are sick and tired of."
Trump said the Mississippi senator "felt very badly" about her comments.
"She certainly didn't mean that and it was taken a certain way, but she certainly didn't mean it," he said. "And as I understand it, she's already apologized and very strongly."