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MS-Sen: No media, audience allowed at debate; Espy campaign blames Sen. Hyde-Smith

The Jackson Free Press reported that Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's campaign demanded the debate against Mike Espy not allow media or public to attend. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's (R-Miss.) campaign demanded that media and the public be barred from attending the Tuesday night debate against Democratic candidate Mike Espy, the Jackson Free Press reported.

Hyde-Smith and Espy are in a runoff election as the two highest vote-getters on Election Day in the special election race to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Thad Cochran.

From the Jackson Free Press:

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith demanded there be no audience or outside press allowed at tonight’s U.S. Senate debate and requested other restrictions, two sources familiar with the debate negotiations told the Jackson Free Press Tuesday morning.

When she faces off against Democratic challenger Mike Espy at 7 p.m., only the debate moderator, panelists and the production team will be allowed in the auditorium—a requirement the Hyde-Smith campaign pushed for and the Espy team argued against.

TheBlaze has reached out to the Hyde-Smith campaign for their comment on this report.

Espy's campaign sent the following statement to The Hill about the debate setup:

“The Espy campaign fought for access and transparency for tonight’s debate. Cindy Hyde-Smith has limited access for the press and for the people of Mississippi at every step of her campaign, because she knows she can’t answer the tough questions," Danny Blanton, communications director for the Espy campaign, said in a statement to The Hill.

Hyde-Smith's campaign has been dealing with controversy in the weeks since election day, having to answer for two video clips of the senator making some comments that have been interpreted negatively.

Hyde-Smith has faced criticism and protests for saying "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row," when thanking a supporter, and for another video in which she appears to be joking about making it harder for liberal college students to vote.

Walmart has asked Hyde-Smith to refund their donations as a result of the "public hanging" remark.

The New York Times reported that a private Republican poll showed Hyde-Smith with a slim five-point lead over Espy. Espy, who carried just 15 percent of the white vote on Election Day, will be relying heavily on strong turnout among black voter -- part of what made Hyde-Smith's controversial remark so significant to the race.

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