Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has predicted that a State license plate honoring a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan will not be approved by lawmakers. However, the Republican official has not denounced the efforts to produce the controversial plate.
According to media reports, the Mississippi division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a heritage group, has proposed a series of license plates to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. One of the commemorative plates would recognize Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who led a cavalry regiment and was one of the first to grasp the doctrines of mobile warfare. After the war he became the first Grand Wizard of the KKK.
However, it is widely believed that Forrest distanced himself from the KKK later in life and even promoted equal rights for African Americans. Nonetheless, the Mississippi branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has denounced the proposed plate. The group's president Derrick Johnson said it is "absurd" to honor a "racially divisive figure," quoted by The Huffington Post.
Barbour, who is a rumored GOP candidate for the 2012 Presidential election, said that the former KKK leader is a "historical figure."
"I don't go around denouncing people," Barbour said, quoted by the news provider. "That's not going to happen. I don't even denounce the news media."
Barbour was criticized late last year for his praise of the Citizens' Councils of Americans (CCA), a former white supremacy group that opposed racial integration, during an interview with The Weekly Standard. He also said that racial tensions were not "that bad" in Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s.