Almost three weeks after winning her controversial runoff election, Mississippi’s GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith had no intention of returning donations to companies that demanded refunds after she created public relations problems for them with her racist campaign.
Hyde-Smith’s campaign made one exception when it returned money to just one donor: Major League Baseball, which is trying to promote racial diversity as fewer Black athletes chose to play baseball, the New York Times reported on Friday.
MLB’s contribution represented $5,000 of the more than $50,000 that donors wanted back. Hyde-Smith, who has an affinity for white supremacy, set off a furor with her remark about public hangings in a state that has a long history of lynchings. She was running against Mike Espsy, a former congressman who is African-American.
A Federal Election Commission spokeswoman told the newspaper that Hyde-Smith is not required by law to return the contributions. Regulations only require campaign committees to return illegal donations or those that exceed contribution amount limits.
Hyde-Smith and Espy were the top vote-getters among several candidates in a special election to replace retiring GOP Sen. Thad Cochran. A runoff was necessary because none of the candidates won more than 50 percent of the votes on Election Day.
It appears that Hyde-Smith’s campaign spent all the money over an abundance of fear that she created an opening for Espy to win.
Espy was a clear underdog in the runoff election. A survey taken shortly before the election showed that Hyde-Smith had a 10-point lead.
However, fearful Republicans scrambled in the days ahead of the runoff election to prevent Hyde-Smith from losing the Senate seat, prompting President Donald Trump to hold rallies in the state with the hope of turning out his base to vote for her.
The worry stemmed from an unguarded moment on her campaign trail when Hyde-Smith revealed her racist attitude toward African Americans. At a Nov. 2 campaign stop, she praised a longtime supporter. “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” she was caught saying on a video posted to social media. In the following weeks, more revelations about her undying love for the Confederacy surfaced.
As the public’s memories of the runoff fade with the passage of time, many of these same companies, which include Walmart and the health insurance giant Aetna, will have to decide whether to support Hyde-Smith’s re-election campaign in 2020.