Walmart asked Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi on Tuesday to return its campaign donations after “Will and Grace” actress Debra Messing and others criticized the retail giant for supporting the lawmaker following controversial comments she made about attending a hypothetical “public hanging.”
Walmart, in a tweeted reply to Messing, said it “completely” understood her concern about the donation to Hyde-Smith, who is headed for a runoff election against Democratic challenger Mike Espy, a former U.S. Agriculture secretary, on Nov. 27.
“Sen. Hyde-Smith’s recent comments clearly do not reflect the values of our company and associates. As a result, we are withdrawing our support and requesting a refund of all campaign donations,” Walmart said in the tweet.
Hyde-Smith’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
Walmart is the third company in recent days to ask Hyde-Smith for a refund of their campaign contributions because of the furor over her “hanging” comments. Union Pacific and Boston Scientific asked for their money back Monday.
All three companies acted after their contributions to the GOP incumbent were highlighted by the news site Popular Information, whose article about the donations was tweeted by Messing.
Federal election filings revealed that Walmart had contributed $2,000 to the campaign of Hyde-Smith.
That contribution reportedly was made Nov. 18 — around a week after the first reports that Hyde-Smith had talked about attending a hanging.
In June, Walmart had given Hyde-Smith’s campaign an initial $1,000 donation.
On Nov. 2, Hyde-Smith, while attending a campaign stop in Tupelo, referred to a local rancher standing next to her, and said that he if “invited me to a public hanging I’d be on the front row.”
That comment sparked a firestorm of criticism after it became widely known.
Mississippi has a history of lynching African-Americans and Hyde-Smith’s opponent, Espy, is black.
Before her “hanging” comment, Hyde-Smith had received donations of $1,000 or more from big corporate backers including Amazon, Amgen, AT&T, Google, Honeywell, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, Nucor and Tyson Foods.
Lockheed spokeswoman Maureen Schumann declined to comment on CNBC’s inquiry about whether the company plans to follow Walmart’s lead and withdraw support from Hyde-Smith.
Also Monday, Hyde-Smith said that her campaign had returned a $2,700 donation from Peter Zieve, a businessman in Seattle, who was sued by the state of Washington in 2017 for refusing to hire Muslims at his aerospace company Electroimpact, and for expressing “hatred” of Muslims at work.
Zieve had made his donation several days after the video of her hanging comments came to light. Popular Information first reported Zieve’s contribution last Thursday.
Last week, another video surfaced in which Hyde-Smith was heard saying it might be “a great idea” to make it more difficult for some people to vote.
“And then they remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who … maybe we don’t want to vote,” Hyde-Smith said on the video, posted by the publisher of The Bayou Brief, a nonprofit news outlet in Louisiana.
“Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”
Her campaign said the senator “obviously” was “making a joke and clearly the video was selectively edited.”