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Jackson, Miss. – A black Democratic challenger in a runoff against a white Republican U.S. senator in Mississippi says his opponent needs to fully explain her comment about a “public hanging” that’s causing an uproar.

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith made the remark in a video that surfaced Sunday. She praised a cattle rancher at a Nov. 2 campaign event in Mississippi by saying: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Mississippi has a history of racially motivated lynchings.

Democrat Mike Espy said Wednesday that the comment was both “hurtful and harmful.”

The winner of the Nov. 27 runoff will serve the last two years of a six-year term begun by Republican Thad Cochran.

Espy wants to become Mississippi’s first black U.S. senator since Reconstruction.

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