CNN's Misleading Graphic: Barbour 'Won't Denounce Creation of KKK License Plate'

On Wednesday afternoon, CNN aired a misleading graphic about Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's statements about a proposed license plate honoring a controversial Confederate general from the Civil War. The chyron, which ran during CNN Newsroom and The Situation Room, stated that the "Miss. Gov. won't denounce creation of KKK license plate."

At first glance, one would imagine that the proposed vanity plate has an image of a burning cross or a hooded figure. In reality, the organization behind it, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, aim to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, who is a controversial figure, even disregarding his early membership in the Klan, because of his involvement in the massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow in Tennessee in 1864. Most people probably know the name because of the Oscar-winning movie Forrest Gump, as the title character was named after the Confederate figure (the movie also has a brief clip of actor Tom Hanks, playing Gen. Forrest, donning his Klan robes).

CNN Graphic from 16 February 2011 edition of The Situation Room

Politics Daily's Matt Lewis reported on Wednesday that Governor Barbour actually cast doubt on the passage of the bill proposing the vanity plate: "I know there's not a chance it'll become law." Lewis continued that "Barbour's biggest problem in this instance seems to be that he refused to denounce Forrest. When asked by a reporter, Barbour said: 'I don't go around denouncing people. That's not going to happen. I don't even denounce the news media.'" So the CNN graphic is doubly misleading, as the Republican actually refused to denounce Forrest himself, while offering his negative opinion about the bill's passage.

CNN's Anderson Cooper actually gave a more accurate report on the Mississippi governor the previous evening on his Anderson Cooper 360 program:

COOPER: Well, Governor Haley Barbour has been silent on the issue until today, interestingly enough. He was pressed by reporters about why he hasn't denounced the idea or said he supports the idea. The governor says he doesn't- quote, 'go around denouncing people,' but he went on to say that the proposed license plate would never pass the state legislature anyway.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR: The Nathan Bedford Forrest tag is not going to happen. Isn't that what you asked me? Is that what you asked me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Yeah, that is what I asked.

BARBOUR: The answer is it's not going to happen.

NBC's Natalie Morales also reported on the controversy on Wednesday's Today show:


MORALES: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is refusing to condemn a proposal to honor a former Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate general on a state license plate. The state's NAACP has called for Barbour to denounce the plan to commemorate Nathan Bedford Forrest, who led an 1864 massacre of black Union troops during the Civil War.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center