A linguistics professor explains why this GOP senator's use of the phrase ‘public hanging’ is so damaging

The phrase has a disturbing history in the South.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is competing with Democratic candidate Mike Espy in a runoff election in Mississippi’s U.S. Senate race, has come under fire for her use of the term “public hanging.”

Hugging a cattle rancher during a recent campaign event, the 59-year-old Hyde-Smith gushed, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Hyde-Smith was being rhetorical, but Espy—who is...

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