Facebook asks Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith for contribution refund, as Mississippi Republican faces nail biter of an election runoff against Mike Espy

Key Points
  • Facebook has asked Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi for a refund of its $2,500 campaign contribution.
  • Google, Ernst & Young, AT&T, Major League Baseball's commissioner, Amgen, and a number of other donors previously asked Hyde-Smith for their money back in light of her remarks about attending a "public hanging." Hyde-Smith faces a run-off Tuesday against Democratic challenger Mike Espy.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks during a campaign event in Meridian, Mississippi,  November 25, 2018. 
Jonathan Bachman | Reuters

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has been unfriended.

Facebook has asked Hyde-Smith to refund its $2,500 in campaign contributions because of the Mississippi Republican's recent comments about being willing to attend a "public hanging" and being in favor of voter suppression.

The social media giant's move came only after a number of other big companies requested a refund of their contributions for the same reasons. Critics have called her remarks tone-deaf or worse given Mississippi's long, ugly history of lynching and suppressing the voter rights of African-Americans.

"The recent public comments made by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith do not reflect the values or mission of Facebook," a company spokesman said.

"Our PAC [political action committee] contribution was made before these comments were made, and we have asked the Hyde-Smith campaign to return our campaign donation."

The refund request first was reported by The Washington Post on Tuesday.

The senator, who was appointed to replace ailing Sen. Thad Cochran earlier this year, is facing a runoff election Tuesday against Democratic nominee Mike Espy, an African-American who previously served as U.S. Agriculture secretary and as a congressman from Mississippi.

Hyde-Smith's comments have turned that race, once seen as a slam-dunk for Republicans, into a potential nail biter that required a last-minute campaign visit by President Donald Trump, as a slew of corporate contributors backed away from her.

Google revealed Monday that it had previously, and privately, asked Hyde-Smith for a refund.

Other companies that have asked for their money back include Walmart, Ernst & Young, AT&T, Amgen, Boston Scientific, Leidos, Pfizer and Union Pacific. The Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball also has asked for a refund.

However, former Facebook President Sean Parker has not requested a refund of the at least $250,000 he contributed to a group that's supporting Hyde-Smith.

Parker's spokesman has said the money was donated earlier this year specifically to defeat another Republican candidate in the Senate race, Chris McDaniel, who is tied to the neo-Confederate movement.

The flurry of refund requests has come as the news site Popular Information has highlighted contributions to Hyde-Smith by big corporate donors.

Popular Information's stories on the contributions in turn were sparked by her recent comments.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Hyde-Smith had said during an appearance that if a supporter of hers "invited me to a public hanging, I'd be in the front row." She later said her comment had been "twisted," and also said that if anyone was offended by it "I certainly apologize."

At another event, Hyde-Smith said she thought it would be "a great idea" to make it more difficult for some people to vote. Her campaign later said that remark was a joke.

Last week, a photo Hyde-Smith posted on Facebook in 2014 resurfaced, showing her wearing a Confederate army cap and holding a rifle during her visit to the presidential library and museum of Jefferson Davis, who led the South during the Civil War.

Also last week, the Jackson Free-Press newspaper reported that Hyde-Smith had attended, as a girl, a private school that was founded to flout the Supreme Court's rulings that ordered the desegregation of schools that had previously kept blacks and whites from studying together.

And Hyde-Smith's daughter later attended a private school that had just one black student out of 392 students, in a town that is 55 percent black.

Despite the controversy, polls indicate that Hyde-Smith will likely eke out a win in the state that went for Trump by double digits in 2016.