Mississippi’s incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was expected to square off Tuesday night against her Democratic rival Mike Espy on the debate stage, seeing each other face-to-face in a public meeting for the first time since the Trump-backed candidate made a racist joke on Nov. 2 about lynching.
If Espy wins the Nov. 27 runoff election, he will become Mississippi’s first Black senator since Reconstruction.
The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation organized the debate, which will be held in Jackson and starts at 7 p.m. local time, according to WTVA-TV.
Hyde-Smith was caught on video saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” while campaigning in Tupelo, Mississippi with cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson. Journalist Lamar White Jr. posted the 10-second video clip on social media.
Given her racist comment, which she has struggled to downplay, it’s no wonder Hyde-Smith has demanded there be no audience or outside press at tonight’s debate, according to the Jackson Free Press. At Hyde-Smith’s request, only the debate moderator, panelists, and the production team will be allowed in the auditorium.
“They have rigged this debate for her to win. Espy’s campaign wanted full access for the press and a live studio audience—they said no. Espy wanted no notes going in. Instead, she and her team will have time to build a crib sheet with everything she needs to say before hand. Espy wanted the candidates to ask the questions to each other directly—they said it had to be pre-submitted. Presumably that’s because she isn’t comfortable asking whatever gotcha question her handlers have hooked up,” a source told the newspaper.
Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate in April to replace Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired because of an illness. Espy and Hyde-Smith finished ahead of a crowded field of candidates in a Nov. 6 special election in which no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote.
The debate was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Central time, or 8 p.m. Eastern.
Do you want to watch it but don’t live in Mississippi? Click here to live stream the debate via WTVA or watch the video embed below.