Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is heading to a runoff against Democrat Mike Espy in Mississippi. Hyde-Smith has come under fire over the past week for making inappropriate comments ranging from racist to corrupt. Recent video footage shows Hyde-Smith telling a group of students that voter suppression is, actually, a great idea. Lamar White, Jr. posted the following video on Twitter this Thursday:
It’s tough to hear exactly what’s being said, but she wraps up with this: “Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult” for “liberal folks” to vote. Hyde-Smith and her campaign responded by saying the video was heavily edited and that she was simply joking around with some students. Per Newsweek, a spokeswoman for Hyde-Smith said, “Someone pointed out that college campuses were liberal and that’s when she made the joke about not wanting everyone to vote. That was a joke. The polling places on college campuses is what she said was a great idea.”
Hyde-Smith herself then took to Twitter: “It’s ok to still have a sense of humor in America isn’t it?” she said, dismissing the rampant effects of voter suppression in Georgia and Florida.
The senator has a history with comedy. White Jr. posted a video on Nov. 11, as well, in which Hyde-Smith is heard joking about lynching. She says if she was invited to a hanging, she’d “be in the front row.” Notably, her opponent Espy could be the first African-American U.S. senator since Reconstruction.
Making light of—or even pretending to make light of—real dangers to democracy is an unfortunate trend with our current commander-in-chief. The president loves to make fun of the disabled, veterans, migrants—anyone who stands in his way, The fact that he’s able to attack others without consequence empowers people like Hyde-Smith to disguise hateful rhetoric as just jokes, while calls to be respectful are dismissed as performative political correctness. Yet laughter is decidedly absent from both videos.