Barbour news secretary leaves: 'dark humor' e-mail

AP News
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Posted: Mar 14, 2011 9:17 PM
Barbour news secretary leaves: 'dark humor' e-mail

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's press secretary resigned Monday after remarks he meant as jokes about earthquake-ravaged Japan and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno became public.

Dan Turner said Barbour never saw the jokes that were included in a daily e-mailed news digest. Turner said they should not be considered a reflection on whether Barbour, a likely candidate to run for the Republican nomination for president, is ready for a wider political scene than Mississippi's.

"The governor didn't make these mistakes. I did," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press in New Orleans. "Governor Barbour never even saw the comments. The daily news summary was transmitted electronically. He receives hard-copy of clips each day. I wasn't trying to hide anything from the governor. That's just the way it works."

The comments were parenthetical remarks about events from a website listing daily historic events.

About Otis Redding's posthumous gold record for "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," Turner wrote "(Not a big hit in Japan right now.")

About Janet Reno's confirmation as the first woman U.S. attorney general, he wrote, "(It took longer to confirm her gender than to confirm her law license.)"

"Those were mine. And I was wrong," Turner said.

A statement from Barbour said only, "Gov. Haley Barbour has accepted Dan Turner's resignation as Press Secretary. Laura Hipp will now serve in that capacity."

About the Reno comment, Turner said, "I was thinking solely of some of the various skits and things I had seen on various television programs. I can't recall the name of 'em; they made some fun of her appearance."

Reno, attorney general from 1993 to 2001, did not immediately return a call to her home for comment.

The e-mail was first reported on online websites politico.com and salon.com.

Turner, a former reporter, said, "After 25 years in the newspaper business, I developed somewhat of a dark sense of humor and I should have exercised better judgment."

"I went to the chief of staff and offered my resignation. Because I do not want to reflect poorly on this governor and this administration," Turner said.

The news digest is e-mailed to the governor's staff, a few former staffers and "a handful of other people," Turner said.