The conservative Mississippi senator, up for reelection in November, said she was 'blown away.'
GOP Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who "joked" about lynching in 2018, praised a supporter who believes that there is already a 'New American Civil War."
During a Zoom meeting on Monday with Americans4Hindus, a SuperPAC that contributed $5,000 to her campaign, Hyde-Smith appeared to be impressed with Naresh Vissa, 31, a supporter from Tampa, Florida. The video was taken down, but Bayou Brief obtained and posted a version.
"I think we are already in the midst of a New American Civil War, as we see on the streets, as we see on social media," he said, referring to his upcoming lecture that will go "more in-depth about this kind of dichotomy that we're seeing in society today."
Vissa went on to criticize anti-white supremacy courses that teach "white kids that they should feel guilty about their skin color and they should feel guilty about their quote-unquote privilege that they've been born into."
After he was finished speaking, Hyde-Smith reacted with a wide smile.
"I am just blown away," the Republican senator said. "That was wonderful. I just want to get you on Fox News."
"Well, let’s connect after," Vissa responded. "Let's try to make that happen."
After the meeting, Bayou Brief obtained a statement from Hyde-Smith's campaign that appeared to be an attempt to distance her from Vissa's comments and refocus her response to the Indian-American community.
"Senator Hyde-Smith does not know Naresh Vissa and is not aware of his work. She was responding to several minutes of comments he made about his personal story and how he, as a first-generation Indian-American, became more involved in our nation’s political process. She did not go point by point to agree with him on any specific issue or statement that he made," the statement said. "She agreed to participate in the call at the request of Mississippi supporters who are active in the Indian-American community."
"Senator Hyde-Smith condemns racism and white supremacy in any form," it added.
When the Bayou Brief asked Vissa whether his "general impression" was that Hyde-Smith agreed with his remarks, he told the publication that he needed to ask her about her "specified thoughts," but noted, "to me, it seemed like she agreed with a lot of what I said" when she responded during the meeting.
The outlet reported that Vissa used to work for Agora Inc., a company that scammed conservatives with fake news and Bible cures, including an alleged cure for cancer hidden in the Book of Matthew, according to a Mother Jones expose.
In September, Bloomberg categorized Vissa as a "Shy Trumper."
This election cycle, Hyde-Smith is running against Democratic challenger Mike Espy, a former congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary. Last month, a poll from the Tyson Group showed Espy behind by only one point, at 41% against her 40%, wiping out a 26-point deficit in March from the same pollster. If he wins, he would be Mississippi's first Black senator.
During a 2018 runoff race for the state's U.S. Senate seat, when she also faced Espy, she "joked" about lynching.
"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row," Hyde-Smith said of a supporter, which prompted a backlash from Espy and the NAACP, especially given the state's dark history of lynchings against Black Americans.
"They are hurtful and they are harmful," Espy said. "We are going here in Mississippi into the third decade of the 21st century and we just should not have this."
She attempted to defend herself at the time, saying, "In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous."
In 2018, Hyde-Smith praised voter suppression tactics that would make it more difficult for liberal college students to vote.
"There's a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don't want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that's a great idea," she said in a video.
A 2014 Facebook post showed a photo of her wearing a Confederate soldier's hat and holding a rifle with a caption praising the Confederate era as "Mississippi's history at its best!"
This story has been updated.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.