On a Sunday talk show, MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart referred to the state of Mississippi as a “fortress of conservatism” and “racism.” Speaking on “AM Joy,” Capehart said the Magnolia State is notable for its “backwardness.” The smear came during a discussion of the forthcoming runoff election that is pitting Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith against Democrat Mike Espy.
Capehart is a Pulitzer Prize winner who writes for The Washington Post.
“This is as much a cultural vote as it is a political vote,” Capehart said. “Mississippi … is a fortress. It’s a fortress of conservatism. It’s a fortress of Republicanism. And as we’re seeing in this race it unfortunately is a fortress of racism.” Asserting that Espy, a former U.S. Representative who went on to serve as Secretary of Agriculture during the Clinton administration, will be targeted by out-of-state groups, Capehart said, “Sen. Cindy Hyde-smith is running a campaign not unlike President Trump’s in that she’s not backing down off of anything that is reported that, you know, she has said in the past, done in the past, done in the most recent past.”
Capehart continued, “She’s not apologizing. And I think that, you know, Mike Espy is doing the best that he can with the circumstances that he has.” He went on to say, “He’s making the argument that, you know, this person is going to enhance, bolster the reputation of Mississippi as being as I’ve been saying — a fortress of conservatism and of backwardsness.”
Mississippi has the highest percentage of any state in the Union of people identifying as black: 37.30 percent, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. It also has the highest rate of increase in people identifying as mixed-race, up 70 percent from 2000 to 2010. It also leads the country in the growth of mixed marriages.
After serving 1992-1994 as Secretary of Agriculture, Espy resigned and later answered 30 indictments in court regarding allegedly receiving gifts. In 1997, Espy was acquitted of the charges. However, Tyson Foods later pleaded guilty to felony charges of giving gifts to Espy.
Espy, despite being a lifelong Democrat, endorsed the gubernatorial campaign of former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour. He once received the Silver award from the National Rifle Association for his pro-gun views. Espy has often emphasized his bipartisan sentiments.