Google asks for refund of campaign contribution to embattled Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith

  • Google has asked Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith for a refund of its $5,000 campaign contribution because of controversial comments by the Mississippi Republican, who faces a runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy on Tuesday, the company confirmed to CNBC on Monday.
  • Ernst & Young, Amgen, AT&T, Boston Scientific, Leidos, Pfizer, Union Pacific and the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball have all asked Hyde-Smith to refund their contributions, in light of her comments about attending a public hanging and suppressing voter turnout.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., attends her swearing-in ceremony in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber after being sworn in on the Senate floor on April 9, 2018. 
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., attends her swearing-in ceremony in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber after being sworn in on the Senate floor on April 9, 2018. 

Google on Monday said it has asked embattled Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith for a refund of its $5,000 campaign contribution in light of the Mississippi Republican's recent controversial statements.

''I can confirm that Google requested a refund,'' a company spokeswoman told CNBC.

The news site Popular Information had first reported Monday that an internal company email from Google's political action committee said the company had asked Hyde-Smith for its money back. But Popular Information said Google had not publicly confirmed that request, as several other big firms have done in the past few days after their donations to Hyde-Smith were highlighted by the site.

Also, accounting giant Ernst & Young told CNBC on Monday it had asked Hyde-Smith to return its contribution.

"The recent referenced comments by Senator Hyde-Smith are in direct conflict with our longstanding core values of respect, diversity and inclusion. The Ernst & Young PAC has requested a refund of its contribution," it said in an emailed statement to CNBC.

Hyde-Smith, who faces a runoff election against Democratic challenger Mike Espy on Tuesday, has been under fire for weeks because of several remarks she made in the past month.

Hyde-Smith was seen on video talking about being willing to attend a "public hanging" if she were invited by a supporter. She also talked about how suppressing voter turnout would be a good idea.

Her campaign has said both remarks were made in jest, and she has said she apologized to people if they were offended by them.

However, both comments drew criticism because Mississippi has a history of being both a leader in the lynchings of African-Americans and of widespread suppression of voting rights of African-Americans. Espy is African-American.

Since her remarks became publicly known, Popular Information has highlighted campaign contributions to Hyde-Smith by various companies.

In turn, some of those companies, including Amgen, AT&T, Boston Scientific, Leidos, Pfizer and Union Pacific, have asked the senator to refund their contributions, in light of her comments. The companies either tweeted about their requests or told reporters about them.

The Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball followed suit several days ago, after Popular Information revealed a $5,000 donation to Hyde-Smith from that entity. The commissioner's office publicly commented on its request for a refund.

But Google had not publicly revealed a request for a refund and had not responded to repeated inquiries from the news site about whether it wanted a refund.

However, on Monday, Popular Information reported that it had obtained an email from a representative of Google's NetPAC that was sent to Google employees last Wednesday.

"I just wanted to update this thread to confirm that a request for a refund of the contribution to Senator Hyde-Smith's campaign has been made," that email said.

"As previously noted, the contribution was made before Senator Hyde-Smith's comments were made public; we do not condone the comments and would not have made the contribution had we known about them."

When an employee asked on the email thread, "Is Google asking for a refund but not announcing it?" there was no reply, according to Popular Information.