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Mississippi GOP senator returns donation from businessman sued for anti-Muslim discrimination

Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith returned a $2,700 donation from a businessman who was sued for ...

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 6:05 AM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 6:05 AM

Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith returned a $2,700 donation from a businessman who was sued for discriminating against Muslims, her campaign said Monday.

The news comes ahead of next Tuesday's runoff election against Democratic challenger Mike Espy. Peter Zieve, a Washington state aerospace entrepreneur whose company, Electroimpact, was accused of discriminatory practices, donated $2,700 to Hyde-Smith's campaign on November 14.

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"That donation was made online, and we have returned it," Hyde-Smith campaign spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said in an email on Monday.

Hyde-Smith faces Espy, an African American former congressman and agriculture secretary, in a runoff election on November 27.

The returned donation comes as Hyde-Smith has made national headlines in a pair of controversies that emerged after a progressive blogger posted videos in recent days of the senator making comments in early November that her campaign said were not meant to be taken seriously.

She said she'd be in the "front row" if Colin Hutchinson, a local cattle rancher, invited her to a "public hanging" in one video -- which she later called an "exaggerated expression of regard." News of that remark had broken three days before Zieve's contribution.

In the second video, recorded November 3 at Mississippi State University, she said that voter suppression might be "a great idea" if it kept "liberal folks in those other schools" from voting. Her campaign later said she was making a joke.

The Zieve donation was surfaced by Judd Legum, the progressive author of the newsletter Popular Information.

Zieve's company agreed to pay $485,000 and remove Zieve from hiring decisions in a settlement last year after the Washington state attorney general's office alleged the company had violated state laws banning discrimination in its hiring practices. As part of the settlement, Electroimpact did not admit any wrongdoing.

Zieve had a history of racist comments and emails to the company's workers, according to the complaint from the Washington state attorney general.

"I note that 381,000 terrorist savages have gotten into Europe so far this year and if we don't make more babies the light will go out on civilization," Zieve wrote in one of emails, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also alleged that Zieve offered bonuses for those in his workforce who got married and had children, writing in one email, according to the complaint, "When [our sons and daughters] choose to not repopulate and allow our wonderful country to be backfilled with rubbish from the desperate and criminal populations of the third world[,] I find that to be disgusting and I find those persons to make these decisions to be repulsive and I don't like them around me."

Zieve donated $1 million to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. Zieve did not immediately respond to voicemail or email messages.

Trump will campaign in Mississippi with Hyde-Smith on Monday, holding two events on the eve of the runoff.

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