Corporate donors have begun to distance themselves from U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) after she joked about attending a public hanging and seemed to suggest she approved of voter suppression tactics. But as the November 27 runoff election between Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy approaches, several of the country’s most visible brands have remained silent.
Walmart, which had given $2,000 to the senator in the run-up to the runoff election, announced Tuesday in a tweet that Hyde-Smith’s “recent comments clearly do not reflect the values of our company and associates. As a result, we are withdrawing our support and requesting a refund of all campaign donations.”
Union Pacific, the largest railroad operator in the United States, has also requested a refund of its campaign contribution to Hyde-Smith. “Union Pacific in no way, shape or form condones or supports divisive or perceived to be divisive statements,” the company announced on Twitter. Boston Scientific, a medical devices manufacturer, has rescinded its campaign contribution to Hyde-Smith.
Google has not withdrawn the $5,000 it gave to Hyde-Smith’s campaign, but company officials told Popular Information that it would not have contributed to the Republican if they had known about her comments. Despite Google’s claim, Hyde-Smith received the company’s contribution on November 13, two days after after the video, which showed Hyde-Smith saying she would be in the “front row” of a public hanging if invited by a supporter, was made public.
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Mississippi has a long history of lynchings targeting Black people, including public hangings. Espy, her opponent, is Black.
In a second video posted online last week, Hyde-Smith is shown talking to a small crowd in early November about “a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don’t want to vote.”
“Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult,” she said.
Hyde-Smith, who won 41.5 percent of the vote in the November 6 midterms to Espy’s 40.6 percent, still enjoys plenty of corporate backing as she seeks to increase the GOP’s Senate advantage. Verizon Communications, Home Depot, and Chevron have all given $5,000 to PACs supporting Hyde-Smith; Exxon Mobil has donated $10,000. None of these companies responded to interview requests from Rewire.News asking if they still supported Hyde-Smith’s run for the Senate after her remarks on hangings and voter suppression.
Home Depot has given around twice as much to Republicans as to Democrats in 2018. Home Depot gave more to Florida GOP Senate candidate Rick Scott ($50,200) than any other candidate running for federal office in 2018. Eight of the ten candidates who have received the most campaign cash from Home Depot in 2018 have been Republicans.
Espy remains at a marked disadvantage in campaign fundraising, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Hyde-Smith has raised $3.5 million this election cycle, while Espy has pulled in $2.4 million.