The day before President Donald Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his U.S. Supreme Court pick, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said Republican senators would come with “guns loaded” and “packed” to ensure the president’s nominee is confirmed.
“You can expect anything possible in the tactics that (Democrats) can come up with” to delay the vote, the senator from Mississippi told American Family Radio Host Tony Perkins on his Washington Watch radio program on Sept. 25. AFR, a branch of the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association, later uploaded the interview to SoundCloud.
The senator told Perkins, whose organization the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a hate group, that “it wouldn’t surprise (her) at all” if Democrats try to stop Republicans from confirming Barrett before the election.
“We’re coming guns loaded, packed, ready to be there and prepared to take whatever they throw at us,” Hyde-Smith said.
The senator’s remark, which the Mississippi Free Press is the first to report, comes amid a number of violent incidents nationwide, including from white supremacist organizations and militia groups—like the one whose plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor the FBI foiled this week.
‘I’ve Helped Reshape Our Courts’
Hyde-Smith has expressed her support for Barrett’s nomination on several occasions since Trump announced her at a White House ceremony on Sept. 26.
Early this month, the Mississippi senator told WJTV 12 News that she supports “law and order,” gun rights, and confirming Trump’s nominee.
“I’ve helped reshape our courts by confirming a historic number of young conservative judges, and we’re about to confirm President Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee,” said in scripted remarks to WJTV on Oct. 2. Hyde-Smith made an impassioned plea for Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 when sexual assault allegations imperiled his confirmation.
Justin Brasell, a campaign spokesman, told the Mississippi Free Press in a statement this evening that the remark is no big deal.
“It’s a ridiculous stretch for anyone to link the Senator’s use of a commonly-used phrase with hate groups or their ilk,” Brasell said. “The senator does not condone hate groups or their actions, but she will defend Judge Amy Coney Barrett from the barrage of unfair attacks being thrown at her by the left.”
But Hyde-Smith has drawn significant scrutiny for violent metaphors before.
‘If He Invited Me to a Public Hanging …’
In her 2018 campaign, the senator sparked a nationwide firestorm when, at a campaign stop, she said she liked one supporter so much that, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Bayou Brief broke the story with a viral clip of that moment.
Critics, including then and current opponent Mike Espy, noted that the phrase had deep resonances in Mississippi, which lynched more Black men than any other state in the years after Reconstruction. Hyde-Smith said it was only a term of endearment, though.
This reporter later broke the story in another publication that Hyde-Smith had attended a segregation academy in the 1970s, and that her former basketball coach, later a Democratic congressman, remembered people using the “public hanging” aphorism as a term of endearment. The New York Times also reported that the saying was popular from the mid-1800s until the mid-20th century—the period when most racist lynchings took place.
Hyde-Smith’s Democratic opponent, Espy, cited the quip when he launched his second campaign against Hyde-Smith last year. If elected, he would be Mississippi’s first Black senator since Reconstruction.
‘Mississippians Deserve to Have Their Voices Heard’
Espy and Hyde-Smith disagree on a number of issues, including gun rights. Espy is a gun-rights supporter himself who believes people should have the right to self-defense but believes in certain restrictions, like limits on high-capacity magazines. Hyde-Smith, though, supports a more expansive view of gun rights. In 2019, she blocked a bill that would have required universal background checks for gun purchases around the same time a teenage gunman was carrying out a school shooting in Santa Clarita, Calif.
As a member of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, now-Supreme Court nominee Barrett wrote an opinion in which she argued that the Constitution protects the right of non-violent felons to own guns, but does not necessarily protect their right to vote. She cited gun ownership as an “individual right”, unlike voting. She noted that, in the 18th and 19th centuries, felons could be disqualified from exercising “civic rights” like voting “because these rights belonged only to virtuous citizens.”
Espy has spoken out against the Republican-led U.S. Senate’s rush to confirm Barrett before the election or before a potential new president can take office. He has also cited concerns that the judge would vote to overturn the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which could cause many Mississippians to lose health care access or protections from price hikes for pre-existing conditions.
“I firmly believe that Mississippians deserve to have their voices heard. It should be up to the next president to nominate a qualified jurist to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat,” Espy said a Sept. 21 statement.
During a 2018 debate with Espy, Hyde-Smith declared that “Obamacare,” referring to the ACA, “is the worst thing that happened to us.” Still, the senator said she “strongly believes in pre-existing conditions,” referring to patient protections like those in the Affordable Care Act that will be struck if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to invalidate the law as the Trump administration is requesting.
Despite her vocal support for keeping pre-existing conditions protections, Hyde-Smith is supporting the Trump administration’s lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the entire law. Neither Hyde-Smith nor other Republicans have proposed legislation to reinstate pre-existing conditions protections if the court strikes them down.
In a debate with Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence declined to answer questions about how the Trump administration would protect people with pre-existing conditions if the court strikes down the law.