Buy Me Some Peanuts and Senators
Last night, vaguely benumbed by aquavit (skol!), I came across a new controversy involving Major League Baseball. It's not a good controversy, and it gets worse the more you hear about it.
Apparently MLB donated $5,000 to the campaign of Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), who most of us know best from her “public hanging” comment. Earlier this month, stumping during the runoff against her opponent, Mike Espy, an African American, she said of a cattle rancher who was helping her campaign, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be in the front row.”
Given Mississippi's history of lynching black people, many were offended. Hyde-Smith was offended they were offended. Here's what she said during a debate with Espy last week:
For anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize. There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statement. ... There has never been anything, not one thing, in my background to ever indicate I had ill will toward anyone. I‘ve never been hurtful to anyone. I’ve always tried to help everyone. 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.
Same old, same old. I'm curious if “...invited me to a public hanging” is a Mississippi colloquialism, and, if so, what is its derivation? (One Southern writer says he's never heard of it, and it's “kind of creepy” regardless of the racial/lynching connotations.)
Either way, she said something either tone-deaf or deeply offensive, never apologized, doubled down.
And Major League Baseball donated $5,000 to her campaign.
Here's the part where it gets worse: MLB donated the money several weeks after Hyde-Smith's comment.
After the controversy erupted last night, MLB is now doing damage control. It asked for the donation back and issued the following statement:
“The contribution was made in connection with an event that MLB lobbyists were asked to attend,” an MLB spokesperson said in a statement Sunday. “MLB has requested that the contribution be returned.”
I like Chris Korman's take in USA Today: “We should talk about why MLB giving $5,000 to any senate candidate anywhere is even a thing.” Then he provides some links to MLB PAC's donations, which average about half a million during election years. He wonders over the donations and the lobbying. What is MLB after? What does it want? Particularly from a junior senator in Mississippi, which includes no Major League club.
I hope the digging continues. I hope it clears away the fog of vagueness in MLB's official statement.