Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says he doesn't remember the Civil Rights era being "that bad," citing his attendance at a Martin Luther King Jr. rally nearly 50 years ago.
"I just don’t remember it as being that bad," Barbour (R), 63, told the conservative Weekly Standard, which did a lengthy profile on the governor. "I remember
Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old
fairground and it was full of people, black and white."
Barbour, who has been mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate, was widely
praised for his term as chairman of the Republican Governors
Association this past election cycle. The GOP picked up six governors seats and, with them, the control of the majority of the country's governors mansions. The former Republican National Committee chairman was also praised for his fundraising prowess.
Democratic National Committee spokesman Haru Sevugan said that comment disqualifies Barbour from running for president.
"Re Barbour's 'not that bad' comment: He’s not ready for prime time or not ready for the 21st century - either way it’s disqualifying," Sevugan posted on his Twitter account.
Barbour's hometown of Yazoo City, Miss., is described in the profile of Barbour as a place that escaped some of the violence seen in other places during the Civil Rights Movement.
“It was quite apparent that Yazoo City had indeed integrated its schools calmly and deliberately," reads a passage cited from a book about the city.
Barbour told the Weekly Standard that he attended a Yazoo City rally headlined by King in 1962 with some of his friends, when he was in high school.
Barbour said they wanted to hear King speak, but he could not recall what the reverend said.
“I don’t really remember. The truth is, we couldn’t hear very well. We were sort of out there on the periphery," he said. "We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do.
"We paid more attention to the girls than to King," he added.
— This post was updated at 11:53 a.m. and at 3:50 p.m.