Former Arkansas Governor and two-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee resigned from the CMA Foundation board of directors Thursday, less than 24 hours after having been appointed to it. He resigned after Nashville music executives and activists on Twitter objected to his “language of racism, sexism, and bigotry.”
“Got home from 28 hour trip from Taipei that lasted longer than my time on CMA Foundation board,” Huckabee tweeted Thursday night. “Read my FULL letter of resignation and see that ‘Hate Wins’ and bullies care about themselves than kids needing music.”
Got home from 28 hour trip from Taipei that lasted longer than my time on CMA Foundation board. Read my FULL letter of resignation and see that "Hate Wins" and bullies care about themselves than kids needing music. https://t.co/uDzMD6NbFc
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 2, 2018
Huckabee wrote a deeply personal letter about the influence of music in his life, expressing his desire to help less fortunate children get musical instruments. The CMA Foundation is the charitable arm of the Country Music Association, and it does provide musical instruments for children.
“Now someone who has never met me threatens to wreck valuable programs of the CMA Foundation because of a personal contempt for my faith and politics,” Huckabee wrote in The Tennessean. “I am willing to get out of the way for the sake of the students the Foundation will hopefully help.”
He concluded with an inspiring message: “At the end of the day, I’m not worth the fight, but the kids are. Never stop fighting for THEM!”
The former governor did lament the overall message of the episode, however. “If the industry doesn’t want people of faith or who hold conservative and traditional political views to buy tickets or music, they should be forthcoming and say it,” he wrote. “Surely neither the artists or [sic] the business people of the industry want that.”
“Until recently, the arts was the one place America could set aside political, geographical, racial, religious, and economic barriers and come together,” Huckabee lamented. “If the arts community becomes part of the polarization instead of bridging communities and people over the power of civil norms as reflected in the arts, then we as a civilization may not be long for this earth.”
It was reasonable for Huckabee to draw this message. As soon as news broke that he had been chosen for the CMA Foundation board, outrage immediately ensued.
Jason Owen, co-president of Monument Records and owner at Sandbox Entertainment, sent an email to Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern and CMA Foundation executive Tiffany Kerns, The Tennessean reported. Owen, an openly homosexual man legally married to another man, is raising one young boy and planning to adopt twins.
Owen called Huckabee’s appointment a “grossly offensive decision,” and warned that neither his companies nor anyone they represent would continue to support the foundation. The Monument Records co-president accused Huckabee of making “it clear my family is not welcome in his America.”
“The CMA has opened their arms to him, making him feel welcome and relevant,” Owen, who represents artists including Little Big Town, Faith Hill, and Midland, wrote. “Huckabee speaks of the sort of things that would suggest my family is morally beneath his and uses language that has a profoundly negative impact upon young people all across this country. Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice.”
Whitney Pastorek, a manager and CMA member, also sent an email to CMA executives objecting to Huckabee’s appointment.
“What a terrible disappointment to see (the CMA Foundation’s) mission clouded by the decision to align with someone who so frequently engages in the language of racism, sexism, and bigotry,” Pastorek wrote. “While Gov. Huckabee’s tenure in Arkansas may have resulted in valuable education reform over a decade ago, I find his choice to spend the past ten years profiting off messages of exclusion and hatred (not to mention the gun lobby) to be disqualifying.”
Longtime country music executive and CMA board member Joe Galante explained that the board selected Huckabee because the CMA Foundation could benefit from the knowledge he gained during his extensive political career.
“Gov. Huckabee led an impressive administration while serving the state of Arkansas and his policy experience with education reform is something we are fortunate to be able to learn from,” Galante said.
Indeed, Huckabee has vast personal experience with music and charity. “Music changed my life,” the former governor wrote in his letter. He wrote that “the confidence I gained by playing, being in front of people, and competing against myself and the low expectations I grew up with was transformative.”
“As Governor my own children were the first children of a Governor in 50 years to have their entire education grades 1-12 in the PUBLIC schools of Arkansas,” he wrote, responding to charges that he opposes public education. “I fought to give teachers the largest pay raise in state history. I successfully led the effort to allow teachers to retire with full benefits after 28 years of service after my two Democrat predecessors vetoed the same bill.”
His education push also centered around music. “I personally shepherded through legislation that mandated both music AND arts programs for EVERY student in grades 1-12 and taught by fully certified teachers,” Huckabee added. “I was Chairman for 2 years of the Education Commission of the States, comprised of all 50 Governors, education leaders in the Senate and House from all 50 state legislatures, and the state education chief for each of the 50 states. My chosen theme and agenda for those two years was music education for every child.”
Regardless of his political views and his religious position against LGBT identity and “pride,” Huckabee has stood for musical opportunity and education for children throughout his career, and his experience should more than qualify him for a position on the CMA Foundation board.
For these reasons, this episode really does underscore what Huckabee himself tweeted, that “Hate Wins.” Intolerance and animus towards social conservatism runs so deep that a qualified former governor and champion of music education cannot serve on a charity board.
Huckabee has indeed made some rather offensive comments that even many social conservatives would find indefensible, but these should not disqualify him from helping make sure that poor children have access to the wonderful world of music.
Unfortunately, this incident echoes a nationwide LGBT push against allowing Christian foster and adoption agencies to only place children with traditional families or Christian believers. This similar witch hunt ends up costing children, as Catholic Charities had to suspend operations in Massachusetts, San Francisco, Illinois, and Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately, this anti-conservative animus is not likely to end with ostracizing former Governor Mike Huckabee. Similar animus exists at Google and in other Silicon Valley companies, and leads LGBT activists to declare their intention to “punish the wicked,” i.e. anyone who would refuse to participate in a same-sex wedding on the grounds that they personally believe marriage is between a man and a woman.
Conservatives in general — and social conservatives in particular — need to defend themselves from accusations of “racism, sexism, and bigotry,” and unmask the anti-freedom bigotry of witch hunts against conservative believers.