President Trump is standing by Mississippi Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith as she faces public condemnation for a controversial comment she made earlier this month, saying he believes “she’s going to win” her upcoming Senate race.
Speaking to reporters before heading to Mar-a-Lago for Thanksgiving, Trump was asked about a remark Senator Hyde-Smith made on Nov. 2 in regard to attending a “public hanging.”
“She’s a great senator. She came in, she’s done a fantastic job in a short period of time,” the president said. “She made a statement which I know she feels very badly about it, and it was just sort of said in jest, as she said.”
The Republican senator was captured on video saying if she were invited by one of her supporters to a "public hanging," she would be in "the front row.”
She has denied any racial connotation, and in a statement said that she used “an exaggerated expression of regard” when talking about accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement.
In a televised debate Tuesday night against Democratic opponent Mike Espy, a former secretary of agriculture, Hyde-Smith further clarified the context of her remarks, saying she was speaking to a supporter who'd lost both parents to cancer while still in high school.
"To express my deep regard and sincere commitment to this young man, I used a phrase, I told him that I would fight a circle saw for him. Well obviously I would not stick my arm in a circle saw nor did any of my comments ever mean that I would enjoy any type of capital punishment sitting there witnessing this," she said.
"I also recognize that this comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me, a political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent. That’s the type of politics Mississippians are sick and tired of," Hyde-Smith continued.
Espy called the remarks a "black eye" on the state.
But Trump defended the incumbent on Tuesday calling her "a tremendous woman and it’s a shame that she has to go through this."
Hyde-Smith was appointed in April to fill retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's seat. She will face off with Espy in a special election on Nov. 27.
Despite the overwhelming public outrage, Trump believes Hyde-Smith will win the election.
“Cindy Hyde-Smith is a tremendous woman who truly loves the people of Mississippi and our country, and I think she’s going to win.”
He told reporters he will hold campaign rallies for her on Monday.
Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.