Southern Miss Common Cause members said Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith should not represent the state of Mississippi Friday.
Junior communication major Brandon Rue organized the press conference to address Hyde-Smith’s controversial comments made in a Nov. 2 video, where Hyde-Smith says, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be in the front row.”
In a statement, Hyde-Smith said she used an “exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.”
Rue said he believed Hyde-Smith’s original statement was racist.
“Not only are these comments hurtful and divisive, but they bring up memories from a dark past in Mississippi’s history,” Rue said. “These comments do not represent what I believe is true of our state today.”
Rue, alongside students representing the College Democrats, Elevate and the African American Student Organization, challenged other organizations to speak out against Hyde-Smith.
“Right now at this very moment, I urge every other student organization, including the Student Government Association to stand behind us as we speak up against hatred and racism. This is bigger than politics this is about human decency,” Rue said.
Senior psychology major Yannick Nixon said Hyde-Smith’s comments were “disgusting.”
“Part of her job is to vote on and help create bills to be passed, and I feel as if she is very biased when doing so, based off of that one comment that she made. She did not have the best interest for the African American community when she made that comment, so I highly doubt that she has our best interest at heart when voting on bills and creating them,” Nixon said.
Gov. Phil Bryant spoke in Hyde-Smith’s defense at a Right to Life event in Jackson Nov. 12.
“I can tell you there was no ill will in her heart,” Bryant said. “There never has been. There never will be. And today she is, we are, proud of being endorsed by the National Right to Life, so we can stop the genocide of babies across America.”
Nixon said he was disappointed by Bryant’s response.
“Then for our governor Phil Bryant to try and change the subject about the senator’s comment by stating the abortion of African American children and how no one wants to talk about that shows that even he knew what she said was wrong,” Nixon said.
“He knowingly defended her which says a lot about our office here in Mississippi,” he said.
Hyde-Smith also received criticism for her comments about voter suppression when an 18-second video recorded Nov. 3 was released Thursday. Hyde-Smith was campaigning in Starkville at the time.
“And then they remind that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don’t want to vote,” Hyde-Smith said. “Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”
Junior social work major Kelli Shoemake said Hyde-Smith’s comments were disrespectful to not only African American students but also to all college students.
“Excusing her words is ignorant, even cowardly,” Shoemake said.
“Southern Miss is a loud and proud institution of diversity, inclusion and knowledge that informs practice. Every student of every color, age, background and history has a right to his or her own voice at the polls. We should not allow our school or state to be represented by unapologetic, prideful hate,” she said.
Vice-President of the USM College Republicans junior political science and Spanish double major Emily Pavolini said the club disapproves of Common Cause being unwelcoming of Hyde-Smith.
“It saddens us that an organization would be willing to not welcome a politician from speaking to our campus,” Pavolini said. “Shutting out Cindy-Hyde Smith would be shutting out our traditions of academic diversity and thought. We acknowledge that Hyde-Smith has made unprofessional statements; however, we hold that one statement does not define an individual’s integrity or worth.”
Pavolini said Hyde-Smith should visit Southern Miss.
“We would like to welcome Hyde-Smith to our campus if and whenever she pleases and would encourage other students to look beyond a statement and dive into her policies and platforms. Research her voting record and make a judgement yourself to become an informed voter.”
Hyde-Smith will debate her Democratic opponent Mike Espy Nov. 20. The debate will be broadcasted on WLBT and WLOX.