Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith recently made racially-charged comments during a campaign rally in Tupelo. Yesterday, standing beside and defended by Gov. Phil Bryant, she refused to clarify her comments when repeatedly asked. The senator has yet to apologize for making comments she has attempted to characterize as a joke about attending a public hanging.

Jennifer Riley Collins, ACLU of Mississippi executive director, and Jeff Robinson, ACLU deputy legal director, issued the following joint response:

“Sen. Hyde-Smith should be ashamed of herself. The fact that she chooses to use such repugnant language despite the ugly history in her state speaks to her lack of concern and knowledge about the experience of people who don’t look like her. Gov. Bryant’s defense of his appointee was also reprehensible as he attempted to cast a woman’s right to her own private health care as racial genocide.

“To celebrate the chance to sit in the front row of a public hanging demonstrates a profound ignorance of the state’s institutional legacy of racism. Sen. Hyde-Smith needs to be held accountable for her words. The people of Mississippi deserve better from their elected officials and appointed officials. It would serve Sen. Hyde-Smith well to brush up on her state’s history — from slavery, to slave patrols, lynchings, black codes, Jim Crow, and all the way to modern-day mass incarceration — to fully understand the breadth of her despicable comment.”