“I just choose to look at it as a possible mistake and chalk it up to that,” said John Mosley Jr., an African American Republican who ran for mayor of Moss Point, Mississippi, in 2017. “And I haven’t given it much thought afterward.”

In nearly a dozen interviews, African American Republicans said they are taking Hyde-Smith at her word when she said she meant “no ill will, no intent whatsoever” when she said at a Nov. 2 campaign stop that if a supporter invited her to a public hanging “I’d be on the front row.”

“I’m a Republican. I support Cindy Hyde-Smith,” said Charles Evers. “She didn’t say anything about black folks, she didn’t say anything about white folks. She just said ‘If there’s a hanging I’ll be in the front row’ or something like that. She didn’t mean nothing like that. She was just saying something. I don’t give a damn what other people think.“