A former Mississippi secretary of state responded this week for the first time to a recent controversy surrounding the state's official ratification of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and a comedy show that poked fun at him.
Dick Molpus was in Meridian for a Parents for Public Schools event. Newscenter 11 talked to him about a mistake originally attributed to his office, and how it led to him to being at first the butt of a joke, and then the subject of a high-profile apology.
It was the perfect kind of story for The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. That is, Mississippi seeming to fail in officially ratifying the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1995, because someone in the Secretary of State's office did not get the paperwork to the National Registrar's office.
"Classic Dick Molpus. Here's my impression of him mailing Mississippi's ratification of the 13th Amendment to the National Registrar. I'm so glad we did this; it's really nice. I'm going to just put this in the mailbox," said Stewart tongue-in-cheek on his show.
One problem with that was Stewart had no idea that Molpus is a long-time civil rights activist.
"I really took umbrage at that," said Molpus. "It upset me; it bothered me. It got under my skin, not just personally, but just the perception because I was a white Mississippi guy, I was automatically a racist. And I was portrayed that way."
The mistake was bad enough that Stewart felt he had to apologize a few days later.
"Even callous, elitist pricks like me can sometimes pick up that 3 a.m. conscience wake up call, and that's 'The More You Molpus," said Stewart at the time.
A spokesman for Molpus says it turned out the mistake was not even made by the Mississippi secretary of state's office anyway, but rather a mistake was made in recording it in Washington.
As frustrated as Molpus was by the first segment, the former secretary of state seems just that happy with the apology.
"It was a sincere apology. It went all over the world," said Molpus. "I've invited him to come see the Mississippi that I've grown up in, and show him that it's a little different than the perception he has about us all."
Molpus says he hasn't heard back from Stewart yet, but he will call him again when The Daily Show is back on the air with new episodes in a few months.