WASHINGTON – Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, declined to denounce a group's proposal that the state issue a license plate honoring an early Ku Klux Klan leader.

The idea, put forth by the white heritage group Sons of Confederate Veterans, would create a state-issued license plate by 2014 in honor of Confederate General and KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. It would include a car tag and a series of other Civil War license plates.

Mississippi lawmakers are considering the proposal, and Barbour said it's unlikely to be approved but refused to stake out a position against it.

"I don't go around denouncing people," Barbour told reporters Tuesday in his home state when asked about the idea, according to The Associated Press.

The NAACP's Mississippi chapter president Derrick Johnson called on the governor to denounce it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the Sons of Confederate Veterans as a "hate group" known for its racist and white supremacist activities.

Barbour is the current chairman of the Republican Governors Association and an important player within the GOP. He's a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

This isn't the first time the Mississippi Republican has found himself in the center of a race-related controversy. During an interview in December, he praised the Citizens Council, a pro-segregation white group that fought against civil rights, for refraining from using violence. Barbour later walked back the comments.

Barbour this week came under fire after it was revealed that his firm lobbied on behalf of Mexico in 2001 and 2002 for a program that would have helped undocumented immigrants gain legal residency in the United States.