By Leigh Coleman
BILOXI, Miss (Reuters) - The press secretary to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, abruptly resigned on Monday after media reports of off-color jokes about Japan in an email.
Dan Turner resigned just hours after media reports of his comments in a daily email sent on Friday to the governor's staff and other political allies.
According to a recipient of the email, Turner joked that on that day in 1968, "Otis Redding posthumously received a gold record for his single, '(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay.'" The email added: "Not a big hit in Japan right now."
The email also said: "In 1993: Janet Reno was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the first female attorney general. (It took longer to confirm her gender than to confirm her law license.)"
Turner, a Mississippi native, veteran journalist and congressional staff member, was named press secretary for Barbour in 2008.
"Gov. Haley Barbour has accepted Dan Turner's resignation as press secretary. Laura Hipp will now serve in that capacity," a statement from Barbour's office said on Monday.
Barbour, a powerhouse in the Republican Party who is a former chairman of the Republican Governor's Association, says he will decide in April whether to seek the Republican nomination to face President Barack Obama in 2012.
In the event of a presidential run, Barbour would likely surround himself with a new team and leave the current staff in place in Mississippi, political analysts said.
The flap over Turner is the latest embarrassment for Barbour, who earlier this year was criticized for comments on race that some critics said downplayed white racism in Mississippi during the Civil Rights upheavals of the 1960s.
(Editing by Greg McCune)