Student Responds to Mike Huckabee’s Comments About Him April 18, 2010

Student Responds to Mike Huckabee’s Comments About Him

A few months ago, I was emailing back and forth with a student named Michael Tracey at The College of New Jersey about possibly speaking there over my Spring Break since he’s the president of their Secular Student Alliance chapter. We were unable to find a day that worked so we put the talk on the backburner.

Last week, I heard a story about how Republican presidential candidate and FOX News Channel host Mike Huckabee spoke at the same school and made some ridiculous comments to a student newspaper about gay people and whether they should be allowed to marry:

“That would be like saying, well there’s there are a lot of people who like to use drugs so let’s go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?”

“Why do you get to choose that two men are OK but one man and three women aren’t OK?”

The student newspaper published this interview, providing a transcript of Huckabee’s own words.

What did Huckabee do in response?

He blamed the student who published the transcript:

“The young college student hopefully will find a career other than journalism. I would ask that he release the unedited tape of our conversation. I believe that what people do as individuals in their private lives is their business, but I do not believe we should change the traditional definition of marriage. Not only did he attempt to sensationalize my well known and hardly unusual views of same-sex marriage, he also inaccurately reported my views on Michael Steele as GOP chairman — I offered my support and didn’t “Rip into Steele” as his article asserted. I had a candid and frank conversation with the group about health care, education, the economy and national security while the young journalism student, instead, chose to focus on the issue of same-sex marriage and grossly distort my views.”

In response, the student newspaper released the unedited tape of their conversation.

Huckabee’s being ridiculous, right? Right.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I saw Rachel Maddow covering the story… and heard her around the 0:16 mark:

Michael Tracey was the interviewer? The same Michael I had spoken to before?!


Turns out he’s the Editor-in-Chief of The Perspective. He conducted the interview that got all the media attention. And he had plenty to say in response to Huckabee:

It is telling that nowhere in his statement did Huckabee suggest he was misquoted in the article, and rightfully so; we have the audio and transcripts to prove that everything reported is accurate.

… regardless, his words speak for themselves, and it is a shame that he is now so quickly embarrassed of them.

Damn… Go Michael!

I had so many questions to ask him in the aftermath of all of this and he was gracious enough to respond:

I asked how his peers have reacted to this story. Were they supportive of him?

As far as I can tell, my peers have been largely supportive of how I’ve managed this controversy. Frankly… there’s not a whole lot to be angry with me about; I conducted an interview and reported what was said, which is pretty standard in the journalism world!

My email and Facebook have been lighting up over the past week, and all the messages I’ve received are congratulatory. Funny how social networking sites bring people you haven’t spoken to in years out of the woodworks when something newsworthy like this happens.

The only unhappy party right now seems to be TCNJ’s main campus newspaper, The Signal, whose staff members have never liked me or my magazine. We’ve always rejected their tired old approach to journalism, which essentially consists of a bland, disengaging standard of objectivity that strips their reporting of any passion or conviction. One of their senior editors, Megan DeMarco, actually went out of her way to try to undermine my credibility in the comment sections of different articles about the story, portraying me as an insidious agent of the “liberal agenda,” whose content is not to be trusted. I don’t know how she can make that argument after the audio transcripts of the Huckabee interview were released, but her outbursts are understandable: most people at TCNJ don’t take The Signal very seriously, as it seldom features any genuine reporting or compelling stories.

I asked whether Michael’s view of Huckabee changed as a result of this interview and the aftermath. Or was he not surprised by the way this all played out?

Interestingly enough, my perspective of Mike Huckabee hasn’t changed all that much as a result of the controversy. I remember silently rooting for him during the 2008 Republican presidential primary season, when he was propelled from an also-ran with zero name recognition outside of Arkansas to the frontrunner for the nomination after winning the Iowa caucus. He’s someone who isn’t necessarily a darling of the party establishment and actually relied on grassroots momentum and a frugal campaign strategy to be successful. And I do believe he earnestly wishes to bridge the angry partisan divide between those who disagree on political issues. His demeanor during our interview was pleasant and welcoming, which I think is admirable.

That said, a friendly persona does not justify the woefully skewed logic by which he justifies continued discrimination against gays and lesbians. He has tried very hard to paint his opposition to LGBT rights in friendly language, but when you press him, as I did, the core beliefs from which that opposition stems are no different from what we associate with conventional Christian Right rhetoric. Although he made it a point to say that he did not explicitly equivocate same-sex marriage with incest, polygamy, and drug use, his deliberate invocation of those “taboo” behaviors indicates a belief that homosexuality, as a behavioral pattern which “goes against the ideal,” cannot be sanctioned by the state under any circumstances — just as the state cannot sanction father-daughter sex.

I think most of us simply assume that because some politician is known to oppose same-sex marriage, he or she does not need to be questioned on the issue. As a former preacher, Huckabee is probably not accustomed to actually being challenged on his core beliefs related to homosexuality. Thus, it is not terribly surprising that upon opening a line of discussion that caused him to stray from pre-conceived talking points, he ended up with saying some things he probably later regretted.

It is a bit sad, though, that Huckabee resorted to attacking me personally in order to quell the furor his remarks rightly invited across the Internet. He might do well to hire some new PR people, as that tactic quickly blew up in his face after I released the full audio of our interview, which completely corroborated everything as originally reported. Rachel Maddow summed it up quite well.

I asked Michael what bothered him most about Huckabee’s comments:

I was only bothered by his comments insofar as I am bothered by anti-gay rhetoric of all kinds, especially anti-gay rhetoric that is grounded in logical fallacies like the classic “slippery slope” argument. The sad reality, however, is that there are millions of people in America who feel the same way Huckabee does, and who would invoke the very same reasoning. I think the fact that it has been dissected so scrupulously in the media might cause some of these people to rethink how they view LGBT people, and how parallels which liken their relationships to incest and polygamy can have seriously adverse effects on public consciousness. I think it is great that the Hearty Boys (a gay couple of Food Network fame) have issued a public invitation for Huckabee to join them and their adopted son for dinner in Chicago. Maybe if Huckabee spent more time around well-adjusted and loving gay people, he would be less inclined to make those harmful analogies.

Finally, I asked Michael whether was planned to pursue journalism as a career and whether he thought this controversy would help or hurt him:

I do plan on going into journalism as a career, though not journalism in the conventional sense. I refuse to accept that to be a journalist is to be a passive observer of the world, removed from its passions and emotions, in service of some futile attempt at corporate-backed objectivity. I don’t see how this controversy could do anything but help me, frankly — along with my story last summer in The Nation revealing Bill Clinton’s reversal in support of same-sex marriage, I think I’ve earned a reputation for holding public figures’ feet to the fire. I am not gay myself, but I have done quite a bit in support of LGBT rights, including organizing a rally in support of same-sex marriage here in New Jersey last December. Though the bill did not pass, it definitely furthered along the societal discourse, which I think is crucially important both in terms of public policy and peoples’ own private views on gays and lesbians. And I think a former president coming out in support of same-sex marriage, as well as a former presidential candidate’s bigoted nonsense exposed for all to see, can ultimately have a profound effect on public opinion, and thereby on our laws and governance.

The issue of homosexuality seems to be a catalyst for a wider discussion about religion and its place in the public sphere, which I also think is vitally important, especially in the “New Secular” movement, of which I am an avowed member. I founded a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance here at TCNJ in 2007, and I hope it continues after I graduate.

I’ve also written for The Advocate and The Huffington Post, as well as many blogs, so please — offer me a job!

I plan to pay Michael what I get paid for writing this blog.

Clearly, big bucks are coming his way…

In any case, I think it’s wonderful how Michael has kept his head above water during all of this. I’m glad he didn’t shrink away when a public official with an eponymous talk show went after him. That’s impressive.

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Is this really any surprise?
    Huckabee is a christian and right wing politician; as such distortion, unfounded personal attacks, avoiding personal responsibity and lying are veritable sacraments.

  • Catinthewall

    Interesting how he compares being gay to all the other victimless crimes in the country. It seems that the more religious someone is, the more likely they are to support criminalizing these victimless acts.

    People will do drugs anyway. If they aren’t hurting anyone else, who are we to brand them a felon for something they did to their own body? In many cases of the more addictive drugs, it was initially forcibly administrated. These people need to be able to recover free of stigma. A lot more addicts would seek help if they did not need to fear imprisonment.

    Suppose I love two people. I ask them both to marry me, and they’re both okay with being in a group marriage. This is illegal, despite no deception. Instead, I marry one. In secrecy, I continue my affair with the other. This is completely legal, despite this involves a huge deception. The bible supports polygamy, so why does the mindless christian hoard not?

    As for incest, If it’s not child abuse, and it’s freely consensual, they should get tested for any genetic problems that would show in offspring, not jailed.

  • NewEnglandBob

    Michael Tracey, I wouldn’t trumpet reporting for the The Huffington Post. It is a cesspool of supporting woo and other nonsense and many of its writers spew lies.

  • Sorry, Michael. I disagree with your analysis of journalism here. It’s supposed to be impartial. What you’re discussing is sensationalism. If you put your bias into your news, you’re no better than Fox News, who projects their bias daily.

  • JulietEcho

    Catinthewall – very good point about victimless “crimes” and the religious right. It’s clear that their aim isn’t to protect anyone by banning things – it’s to push their own prudish moral code onto society, just like Sharia law does in too many Islamic-majority countries.

    So long as things are being done by willing adults, and they aren’t harming others, why shouldn’t they be legal? There’s a big difference between coerced polygamy, for example (as the fundamentalist Mormons have often done) and polyamory or polygamy by choice. We’re already beginning to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Alcohol is legal – it’s not legal to drive drunk, which would hurt others, but it’s perfectly legal to drink yourself into a stupor every night, even if it’s not good for you – so long as you don’t hurt anyone else.

    I’m a big fan of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” and I think the standard we should apply when it comes to banning things should be “Who does it hurt? What harm does it do?” People tend to associate incest with child rape – which should absolutely be illegal. Incest between two consensual adults might freak us out, but being offended or grossed out should not constitute a serious argument for banning something.

  • Vy

    I actually am angry about this today, right now. It doesn’t surprise me, but what a dumb ASS.

    Then let’s punish every religious person who sins.

    Let’s hang them out and ridicule them.

    He’s got his logic all backwards. Ah! I can’t be coherent, I’m too angry over the stupidity allowed in a high office.

  • Tommy

    Marriage has gone through a lot of history in the US! I’m fascinated to read the wiki article and another timeline from an external link.

    I have anti-statist views and like how Ron Paul puts it that marriage should be a private contract and a function of the community, but in the course of history the federal government has been more involved in marriage when it was a state issue. Just look at the IRS income tax code giving privileges to married couples so it makes sense how LGBT groups fight for equal rights, but I see it from the perspective of politicians that they are offering bread and circuses.

    I find the polyamory movement to be especially interesting because the concept of marriage seems to be moot. I tried it myself but I’m not living in a poly friendly community like NYC anymore and it’s hard to meet a poly person.

  • Not surprising. Just because Huckabee speaks softly does not mean he’s not full of twisted discriminatory views and outright bigotry. He’s just better at being devious and tricky, which is exactly what he was trying to be with the “release the tape” tactic.

  • It’s getting harder and harder for politicians to tell one crowd A, and another crowd B – thanks to the free flow of information, people like Tracey who ask questions, and people like us who expect public officials (and wannabes) to give the same answer regardless who’s asking. Keep in mind that as of the last poll, Huckabee was in the lead for the GOP nomination.

  • cathy

    I am in no way surprised, this man has alwasy been a huge homophobe and a religious loon.

    Also, I wonder if these reproduction nuts realize that we’ve got plenty of people around, billions of them, a few people not reproducing is not going to make the human species go extinct. Also, being queer doesn’t make you sterile. Though ability or plan to reproduce is not a requirement for legal marriage rights. My sterile ass could legally marry a guy, but not a woman, despite the approximately equal chance of me producing offspring.

  • cathy

    Oops, I forgot, sterile women and queers make the baby jesus cry.

  • Catinthewall, I hate to think you are ok with sex with children. Just to clarify, you mean consensual sex between related people who are legally, physically, and emotionally mature enough to consent, correct? (just want to make sure I’m not misreading you)

    Good job Mike for remaining calm and reasonable, and for bringing up a lot of important issues.

    I don’t know that I agree with sensationalist journalism either, but I do know I disagree with Huckabee’s slippery slope argument. It completely dehumanizes and devalues gays and lesbians. He doesn’t seem to understand that two people consenting to a relationship regardless of their sex/genders is two people consenting to a relationship. It’s not the same as polyamory, incest, marrying animals, using drugs, or any of the other ridiculous arguments against gay marriage that are out there. How you feel about polyamory/incest/etc. doesn’t really apply to how you feel about gay marriage; they’re not really comparable.

    At least that’s how I, an atheist with “no moral grounding,” feel. 😉

  • Miko


    I have anti-statist views and like how Ron Paul puts it that marriage should be a private contract and a function of the community, but in the course of history the federal government has been more involved in marriage when it was a state issue.

    Devolving marriage regulation from the federal to state level is a federalist position, not an anti-statist position. In particular, Paul wants marriage handled at the state level because a) that’s what the Constitution mandates and he has a really weird fetish about the Constitution and b) he thinks it’s likely that a fair number of states would ban marriage equality, whereas federally things seem to be going towards relegalizing marriage equality. So, by supporting the Constitution and moving regulation to the level at which it’s more likely to be draconian, Paul really isn’t a friend of the anti-statists.

    Incidentally, the marriage-as-contract view suffers from the same flaws as most views that elevate contracts above everything else. Contract theory is based on a ‘meeting of minds’ more than a physical, written document, in which a contract is created when two or more people freely agree to undertake certain responsibilities and/or obligations towards each other. As such, society should only be willing to recognize a contract in cases in which it was freely entered into by all parties and in which all parties were of sound mind when the contract was made. (These are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the validity of a contract.) But, all too often marriage contracts result from uneven bargaining positions, such as immigrants needing green cards or impoverished women (also men, but usually women) needing financial support. Outside of a state framework, these problems would of course cease to exist, but until we can get away from the statist paradigm, allowing the dominant party in a marriage to ‘dictate terms’ in the marriage contract is even more dangerous than the current system in which the government dictates the terms (since the same contract is used in cases where both parties are entering as equals and where one party will be unusually desperate and dependent on the other, a uniformly used contract is more likely to be neutral, except for the issues in which the anti-feminist biases of the society are most common).

  • Tommy

    Miko I know I have a weird fetish for Ron Paul. As an atheist I hold him in high esteem because he defends the principles of liberty. Elected officials are sworn to protect the Constitution which is the oath of office. So that shouldn’t be weird at all. Ironically most presidents haven’t upheld the Constitution and created federal bureaucracies like the DEA, FDA, Dept of Education, etc so when RP talks about abolishing them many say he’s crazy when he’s really upholding the principles of the constitution.

    That dovetails with marriage, drugs, or whatever you decide to put in your body shouldn’t be a federal matter but state’s rights. Like it or not that’s how our country was designed as a republic with a small federal government. At least if our politicians kept their oaths it would be that way instead now we have big federal gov’t.

    That being said ideally I’m anarcho-capitalist but I realize that’s a pipe dream so anti-statism (the government that governs best is that which governs least) is the better alternative. So with you being a libertarian-socialist we are in the same camp of thinking although I don’t understand the concepts of left-libs. 😉

  • muggle

    Good job releasing the tape but he actually brags about being unbiased? That’s exactly what a reporter should be. What’s his goal? To be the next Jerry Springer?

    I also didn’t like his I’m straight but I’ve done a lot for LGBT causes. Sounded kind of like he views them as a stepping stone.

  • What strikes me more than the “gay marriage” comments is Huckabee’s obvious ignorance about the atheist community (and how much he’s trying to sound open-minded, but his true opinions seep out anyway). He’s basically saying that atheists are arrogant, believe there is nothing “higher” than themselves, and are choosing to be atheistic in order to live without morals:

    …I’m frankly more OK with that than a person who says, “Oh, I am very much a Christian. I very much love God,” and then they live as if they’re atheists; as if they have no moral groundings at all…

    If I wasn’t sure how I felt about Huckabee before this interview, I certainly have no doubts anymore…

  • Blotz

    “Ironically most presidents haven’t upheld the Constitution and created federal bureaucracies like the DEA, FDA, Dept of Education, etc so when RP talks about abolishing them many say he’s crazy when he’s really upholding the principles of the constitution.”

    Ummmmm… No. That’s a mistaken belief. A quite common one but mistaken. In each of those cases the federal bureaucracy referred to was created by and act of Congress.

    The dept of educattion:

    The DEA was actually an amalgam of federal agencies, but was once again approved by congress.

    The FDA was created to enforce laws passed by Congress.

    This is how government works folks, Congress is specifically tasked with creating legislation and the Executive Branch is tasked with enforcing that legislation. Almost all of the amendments to the Constitution specifically call for Congress to draft legislation designed to apply the amendment in the real world.

    Grade school civics folks, at least it was in my grade school.

  • Michael

    I actually liked Huckabee in the presidential race until I found out he was a religious nut.
    How sad is it that in a supposedly secular country the primary requirement for leading our country is to be religious? It is even more sad that the religion has to be Christian.

  • Notice the bit where the interviewer asks him what should happen to the kids who aren’t being adopted (if they should be relegated to foster care, for instance)… and Huckabee completely dodges that, instead saying that people who have kids should raise them?

    Where are the solutions for the ‘unwanted’ kids who already exist, Mikey?

  • J Myers

    he actually brags about being unbiased?

    No; any perception of bragging is your own unwarranted inference. He simply points out that the evidence (the tape) counters Huckabee’s claim that he was inaccurate in his reporting. He’s allowed to do that much, isn’t he? He even specifically said that it was all quite unremarkable.

    I also didn’t like his I’m straight but I’ve done a lot for LGBT causes. Sounded kind of like he views them as a stepping stone.

    The “stepping stone” is another unwarranted inference; he’s plainly talking about a cause he supports, and how this interview and his prior story about Clinton has potentially advanced this cause (so if anything, you have it precisely backwards–these figures were stepping stones in his advocacy of LGBT rights).

  • Catinthewall

    Beth: You read it correctly, I could have clarified more, but it is admittedly squicky to me. I was clearly referring to purely consensual relationships.
    There was a case I read about a while back where two teenage siblings were caught “fooling around”. I don’t remember the exact results, but it sucked.
    While we’re at it, one other way to break the law with no victim is to be seduced by a minor who lies about her age.
    Guy meets girl at bar. She’s using fake ID, he starts going out with her, even meets the parents and her friends and everything. six months later, she breaks it off and cries at the cops, she’s really 17. No-one thought to tell him her real age, and at the trial, both parents and many of her friends testify on his behalf.

    Despite him having reasonable evidence she was of age, and being seen together and happy for months with no coercion, and being found innocent of aggravated sexual assault, he was found guilty of statutory rape, sentenced to several years in prison, and registered as a sex offender for life. as a bonus, when he’s out, he has to tell all his neighbors in person he’s an offender, but can’t tell them why. The real sex offender of the case? She kept going to bars with her fake ID, and got another sugar daddy.

  • ihedenius

    Ron Paul at Values Voter Summit 2007:

    Ron Paul has a “We the peoples act” to take care of: ‘prayer at school’, ‘the marriage issue’ and ‘abortion’. Listen at 6:00 ‘remove the jurisdiction from the federal courts’, so that ‘any state can pass a law .. pass a prohibition’ that ‘can not be heard in a federal court’.

    * We the People Act. H.R. 539, 2009-01-14, originally H.R. 3893, 2004-03-04. Forbids all federal courts from hearing cases on abortion, same-sex unions, sexual practices, and establishment of religion, unless such a case were a challenge to the Constitutionality of federal law. Makes federal court decisions on those subjects nonbinding as precedent in state courts,[34] and forbids federal courts from spending money to enforce their judgments.

    He is against mandatory vaccination and pro ‘alternative medicine’.

    He goes on and on about the constitution but at one point he talks how the constitution needs ‘modifying’ (??) (parts 2 or 3).

    Ron Paul dodged and laughed nervously on getting asked about evolution (at the ten republican candidates debate). Ron Paul asked about that (evolution):

    I would never vote for Ron Paul.

  • fritzy

    This is a guy who has publicly stated that the constitution should be changed to match Biblical law.

    He’s a dominionist. Not only should none of what he said be a surprise, it should be the main concern of any rational individual. His comments about gays and atheists are just a symptom of the greater illness that exists in his sick mind.

    Hopefully interviews like this will help bring his frightening dominionist ideology to light. His soft-spoken nature and likeable demeanor fools even the most skeptical individual into thinking he’s an alright guy with some bad ideas. Make no mistakes–he’s a monster in sheep’s clothing.

  • cathy

    Miko, a non-civil marriage system does not settle, eliminate, or reduce any of the issues you listed. Case in point, most of the middle ages. During the middle ages, marriages (with the exception of certain high ranking nobles) were not handled by the government, when people privately took oaths and claimed to be married, they were treated as married. Women had virtually no rights in marriage and could be jailed for leaving their husbands in many areas, marital rape was legal, physical beatings of wives were legal, and the social inequalities were incredibly pronounced. Making marriage private, rather than civil may have other benefits, but this is not one of them.

    Also, states-rights people, you do understand that the Constitution states that federal law supercedes state law, right? And that states are left free to legislate when there is an abscense of federal law. Also, the idea that your state government would somehow be automatically sweet and lovely compared to the federal government when given power just seems ridiculous. Also, you might want to consider that not all of us are white dudes and that it was the federal government that stripped away things like Jim Crow, Sodomy Laws, legalized marital rape,slavery, and many other minority rights issues. My home state still allowed marital rape until the 70’s. There is zero garauntee that a state government will be less abusive than a federal government. There is, however, a garauntee that stripping away federal rights results in widened discrepancies between laws, which means that vulnerable groups lose full citizenship based on region.

    Also, again libertarian-socialist is a contradiction.

  • Heidi

    I also didn’t like his I’m straight but I’ve done a lot for LGBT causes. Sounded kind of like he views them as a stepping stone.

    You know, the thing is, that if no one says “I’m straight, but…” then the religious nutjobs cling to the idea that marriage equality is a subject which has no support outside of the gay community.

    I am straight, and I do support gay rights. And I feel like that makes it all the more important that I speak up and say it. They can’t marginalize me by saying it’s just a “behavior” in which I want to engage, when it isn’t and I don’t.

  • Matt

    No matter how open-minded and friendly Huckabee wants to seem, his comments are truly sickening when you analyze them. Atheists have no morals? Gays treat children like adopted pets? These sweeping generalizations reveal a true ignorance of the communities that he is attacking.

  • konley

    it does bother me a little bit that opinionated journalism is something to aspire to. i see all the talking heads perched precariously on their soapboxes and their legion of fervent followers and i wonder where unbiased journalism went. what happened to letting people decide for themselves what to feel passionate about? i dunno. i think huckabee is completely wrong in this, that is undeniable, but should we promote agendizing (my new word) the news? should we fall into the same pit that fox revels in? i should hope not.
    hope this finds everyone well.

  • muggle

    thank you konley. That’s what I was trying to say and apparently did so too poorly to be understood.

    For the record, I’m straight and I support gay rights. But I’m not making that a journalistic career and, as I was reading the local political cartoonist today, I did actually think was that what that guy meant? Perhaps he plans to become a political cartoonist? Though the evidence (in other words he hasn’t drawn any has he) seems to indicate otherwise.

  • AxeGrrl

    Heidi wrote:

    You know, the thing is, that if no one says “I’m straight, but…” then the religious nutjobs cling to the idea that marriage equality is a subject which has no support outside of the gay community.

    I am straight, and I do support gay rights. And I feel like that makes it all the more important that I speak up and say it. They can’t marginalize me by saying it’s just a “behavior” in which I want to engage, when it isn’t and I don’t.

    Beautiful post, Heidi. Simply spot-on 🙂

  • Linda

    What a bigot.

error: Content is protected !!