Major League Baseball wants the campaign of Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) to return a $5,000 donation, ESPN reported on Sunday.
An MLB spokesperson told an ESPN reporter the donation was made in connection with an event league lobbyists were asked to attend. The league “has requested that the contribution be returned,” the spokesperson said.
The money was given the campaign through the league’s political action committee that operates under the commissioner’s office.
Hyde-Smith’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
Other major organizations, including Walmart, AT&T, Leidos, Union Pacific and Boston Scientific, have made similar requests for the return of donations from the lawmaker’s campaign after reports surfaced that she recently made a joke about attending a hypothetical “public hanging.”
The remark, which she made on the campaign trail, drew heavy criticism in a state with an ugly history of terrorizing blacks with lynchings.
The senator later apologized for her remark, but she accused her opponents of twisting her words for political gain. Her comment had nothing to do with race-related lynchings, she said.
Hyde-Smith faces Democrat Mike Espy in a special election on Tuesday, and the challenger’s campaign sought to spotlight the refund request by baseball officials. “When you’ve lost America’s favorite pastime, you’ve crossed a red line,” Espy communication director Danny Blanton said in a statement.
Hyde-Smith was appointed earlier this year by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Thad Cochran (R), who stepped down for health reasons. She became the first woman to represent Mississippi
The special election winner will serve the final two years of Cochran’s term. In the heavily Republican state, Hyde-Smith had long been seen as the prohibitive favorite in the race. But the backlash to her “hanging” remark has given Democrats some hope of winning the seat.
To help prevent such an upset, President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold two rallies in Mississippi on Monday to whip up support for Hyde-Smith.
His appearances follow a Friday report by a Mississippi newspaper that Hyde-Smith, 59, had attended a “segregated” school when she was younger. The school, Lawrence County Academy, was set up to enable white parents to avoid sending their children to school with black children, the Jackson Free Press reported. The senator also sent her daughter to a similar school, according to the newspaper.
Such schools sprang up in many Southern states after court decisions and the civil right movement finally ended the segregation of public schools in the region.
It also was recently revealed that Hyde-Smith praised Confederate history in a 2014 Facebook post. Alongside a smiling photo of herself wearing a Confederate soldier’s hat and holding a rifle at a museum exhibit, the senator wrote, “Mississippi history at its best!”
The 64-year-old Espy, a former House member from Mississippi, served as U.S. agriculture secretary during President Bill Clinton’s first term.