(CNN) – Mike Huckabee – whose foreign policy credentials have been under a microscope since he admitted to journalists that he was unaware of a major report on Iran’s nuclear weapons program – appeared to make another minor gaffe Thursday when he seemed to suggest incorrectly that Pakistan was currently under martial law.
At an Orlando press conference, the former Arkansas governor told reporters that the United States’ first priority should be to find the responsible parties.
“But the most urgent thing to do is to offer our sincere sympathies and concerns to the family and to the people of Pakistan, and that’s the first thing we would be doing other than, again, trying to ascertain who’s behind it, and what impact does it have on whether or not there’s going to be martial law continued in Pakistan, suspension of the constitution,” said Huckabee. “Those are concerns that the United States certainly should have."
Conservative critics immediately pointed out that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf lifted the country’s state of martial law roughly two weeks ago. The slip "ought to be really bad news for Huckabee," said the National Review's Jim Geraghty, writing on the magazine's Web site. "...I'm not sure how big assassination-related news will play in the first primary states. Still, I think those misstatements will exacerbate the Huck/Not Huck divide in GOP circles." The National Review has endorsed Huckabee's Republican rival Mitt Romney.
UPDATE: In a statement Thursday night, the Huckabee campaign said: "Gov. Huckabee firmly believes that emergency rule/martial law in Pakistan, as a practical matter, should not be viewed as having been completely lifted until the restrictions imposed during that period on the press and judges are removed.
"Although General Musharraf let the pendulum swing a little more freely in the last few weeks, the overall policy, which is what the Governor was addressing in his comments, has been, and continues to be, repressive."
Later Thursday, at an event in West Des Moines, Huckabee told CNN that "it was not that I was unaware it was suspended, two weeks ago, lifted. ...The point was, would it be reinstated, would it be placed back in? All of the aspects of martial law have not been completely lifted even now. There's still a heavy hand Musarraf has used."
He added, "We ought to have immediate, very clear monitoring of our borders, and particularly to make sure if there's any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country. We just need to be very, very thorough in looking at every aspect of our own security internally, because we live in a very dangerous time."
–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand