- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Several high-profile businesses, including retail giant Wal-Mart, have asked for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith to return campaign contributions after the Mississippi Republican was caught making foolish remarks.

Union Pacific, the railroad giant, and Boston Scientific, a maker of medical devices, have also asked for cash donations to be returned in light of the comments, which included mention of a “public hanging” and a joke over voter suppression — both of which stoked old fears in a state with a history of racial violence and discrimination.

“We were not aware of Senator Hyde-Smith’s remarks when this contribution was made on November 8, and we have requested a refund,” Boston Scientific tweeted Monday. “We reject the senator’s statements, which are not aligned with our company’s core values.”

The contributions came from the companies’ political action committees. Union Pacific, for example, makes contributions through its “Fund For Effective Government,” or Union Pacific FFEG PAC.

A spokeswoman for Hyde-Smith’s campaign declined comment and did not say how many companies may have requested a refund of their contributions or how much money was involved.

The corporate moves come after Ms. Hyde-Smith has tried to cope with the fallout from her remarks.

The first, before a small group of supporters in Tupelo, in which she told someone inviting her to speak she would be in the “front row of a public hanging,” if he invited her; the second at Mississippi State University where she joked about suppressing the liberal vote on other college campuses.

The incidents, first noted by a left-wing blogger and quickly seized upon by national media covering the only Senate race still undecided from the 2018 midterm elections, occurred in early November. Ms. Hyde-Smith called the first an “exaggerated” attempt at praising a friend and the second an obvious joke.

But there have been reports Ms. Hyde-Smith was also urged to apologize for the comments, something she has thus far resisted doing.

The two candidates are scheduled to hold their only debate Tuesday at 7 p.m., with the runoff vote on Nov. 27.

For his part, Democratic opponent Mike Espy has been measured in his response to the comments, although his campaign is doing whatever it can to capitalize on them in a state that last voted for a Democratic senator in 1982. Ms. Hyde-Smith currently holds the seat, to which she was appointed when longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran retired this year due to health concerns.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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