December 19th, 2007
08:30 AM ET
11 years ago

Huckabee denies subliminal Christmas message

Is the bookshelf behind Huckabee in his Christmas ad a subliminal message?

(CNN) - Republican Mike Huckabee poked fun at critics who said a bookshelf in his new Christmas-themed ad that appeared to highlight the shape of a cross was meant to send a subliminal message.

“Actually I will confess this, if you play this spot backwards it says ‘Paul is Dead, Paul is Dead, Paul is Dead,’” the presidential candidate joked to reporters in Houston Tuesday. “So the next thing you know, someone will be playing it backwards to find out the subliminal messages that are really there.” (Watch Huckabee's comments)

The ad is intended for the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The former Arkansas governor said the spot was last-minute and ad-libbed: “They had a bookshelf behind me, a bookshelf. So now I have these people saying, ‘ahhh there was a subtle message there,’” said Huckabee. “….I never cease to be amazed at the manner in which people will try to dissect the simplest messages, can't even say ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore without somebody getting all upset about it.”

The former Baptist minister also shot back at some who said the spot should have been more inclusive, and that he should have wished voters “Happy Holidays.”

“I don’t know what else to call Christmas, last time I checked that is what we celebrate. If somebody can give me a way to get around that and do it honestly, then perhaps that’s what Christmas is,” said Huckabee.

“The very word Christmas comes from the contraction of 'Christ Mass' - the worship of Christ – again, change the word if we don't want to talk about it, but that’s what it symbolizes and represents.”

–CNN’s Rebecca Sinderbrand and Steve Brusk

Filed under: Mike Huckabee
soundoff (505 Responses)
  1. BlueGoose

    Huckabee is showing he is willing to play the same religon card that Bush has in the last 2 elections. The ol' "Attention Christians we are under attack".. Why don't the Republicans just rename their party the 'Christian Party' and be done with it. Its a good tactic though- it takes attention away from the fact that Huckabee didn't graduate from a real college, raised taxes to pay for illegal immigrants, and lets rapists out of jail if they find Jesus.

    December 18, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  2. Pete

    Yet ANOTHER non-story story. What is going on? Don't you folks at CNN have any real stories to put on the ticker?

    December 18, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  3. E. Elliott, Orlando, FL

    He also could have pointed out the Christ Mass would have been Catholic. But hey, the guy is presenting himself as a preacher that entered politics without taking off the collar. Without regards to his policies, that by it self removes him from consideration by Americans. The separation of Church from State is under siege and he represents a battering ram. If you must vote for the party of Chaney, Abramoff, Gonzo and Duke Cunningham, then vote Ron Paul.

    December 18, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  4. Ken D, San Diego CA

    No story here. It's a bookshelf.

    December 18, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. Matt, New York, New York

    It's a shame when a Christian candidate in a mainly Christian nation is actually critized for wishing people a Merry Christmas. Evangelicals are often accused of intolerance by liberal types. But those same liberals cannot tolerate Christianty and will do anything to remove all aspects of faith and religion from society.

    The Republican party is a Christian party, so are the Democrats so are 90% of the American people. The difference is the Republicans embrace their faith. The Democrats are only Christians when it suits their political careers.

    December 18, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  6. Jon, New Haven CT

    "Last time I checked [Christmas] is what we celebrate"

    Actually, I don't celebrate Christmas and I am American and WE the People have a first amendment which prohibits Congress from declaring a state religion.

    For that matter, it also prevents Congress from censoring someone like Huckabee for saying Merry Christmas. But don't speak for the Royal We Mr. Huckabee. I find that offensive.

    December 18, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  7. Jeff, Plainfield, IL

    I have no plans to vote for Huckabee, though I'm not full-bore against him as I am most of the Republican candidates and a couple of the Democratic candidates.

    That being said, it doesn't matter whether there was any intent in the bookshelf/cross. What matters is his response, and I think its safe to say he just gained a LOT of votes with his response.

    From a strictly neutral view: well played, Mike...well played.

    December 18, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    I would never let anyone tell me what to call it either. Good for You Huck.

    December 18, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  9. J.Crobuzon

    What, a protestant preacher holding the Christ Mass? Most of us just settle for celebrating the more secular holiday of Christmas, but perhaps Huck's denomination is more catholic. And does he mean that he purposefully said 'Merry Christmas' and not 'Happy Holiday,' but didn't notice a whackin' big cross behind him? Naah. He doesn't lie well. He'd have noticed a swastika or peace sign in that same spot, I betcha.

    December 18, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. Jason, Peoria, IL

    "I don’t know what else to call Christmas, last time I checked that is what we celebrate."

    That's the issue, Huck. It's not what "we" celebrate. It's what YOU celebrate. Unless by, "we", you aren't including the non-Christian American citizens in your message of well wishes.

    It's the same problem with "In God We Trust" and "Under God" in the Pledge. Either non-theists aren't Americans, or they're deemed of a lesser value than "real" Americans.

    It has been shown to be a good tactic recently. He might want to rally the Christian base, since he it should bring in votes while not costing him any.

    December 18, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. David, Gilbert Arizona

    This has to be the stupidest attempt to discredit Huckabee's message. The back ground shelves look like a plus sign, not a cross.

    It would seem people are obsessed with Huckabee to the point of insanity.

    December 18, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  12. Gail, New York, NY

    What subliminal message? Perfectly obvious to me, America is becoming more and more like Germany in the 1930s. Only this time, we Jews will not go quietly.

    Huckabee,keep your anti-semitic thoughts to yourself. This is AMERICA, where everyone can worship as they please and religion has NO place in politics!

    December 18, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  13. Bill Solon, Ohio

    A beatles reference! It's nice to see one of these guys has a sense of humor about the absurdity of the critics. I don't care what you celebrate most American's celebrate Christmas, let's stop playing to the minority of people all the time. Just because someone wishes you a Merry Christmas doesn't mean you are required to change your beliefs. I would be just as touched if someone wished me a Happy Holiday, Hanukah, Christmas, or Kwanza. It's the thought people stop being so sensitive about the small details that you lose the big picture.

    December 18, 2007 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. Michelle Cubas, Scottsdale, AZ

    If Mike Huckabee deliberately went for a crucifix effect, shame on him. I don't believe it.

    As a Jew, I am tired and insulted by the whole Christian argument that serves to segregate non-Christians from some "inner circle" of "saved souls." Why can't they just enjoy their advantage as they see it!
    These leaders have no idea what it's like to live in a Christian dominated world. It demonstrates a lack of emotional intelligence, primarily empathy, when they rant on about Jesus (who was a Jew afterall, his teachings steeped in Judeo principles like love thy neighbor, first spoken by Rabbi Hillel, by the way!)

    Let's move on from this; it is a hefty example of the pettiness of the religious argument.

    Candidates must recognize that values are present in many traditions and that we, as the American people, are stronger when we tap into the righteousness of us all.

    PS—As a former production director, the serendipity of lighting and "effects" are most often unplanned. I don't believe Huckabee is that depleted of spirit.

    December 18, 2007 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. AJ, IL

    I like Huckabee. Whoever is criticizing a former Baptist Minister about Christmas ads, is making a terrible mistake, especially around this time of the year. While people like Mitt and Thompson and McCain are firing "rounds" at Huckabee, Huckabee remains on target with a positive message for Christmas celebrators. This makes the attacker look really bad, especially in South Carolina.

    December 18, 2007 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. Jonah, Boston MA

    I am a far left liberal, but while I don't want a manger scene on public property or the ten commandments in our courtrooms, I find the degree of political correctness regarding Christmas to be a little ridiculous. However, this advertisement (and Huckabee's subsequent defense of it) is pretty insulting. Case in point:

    “I don’t know what else to call Christmas, last time I checked that is what we celebrate."

    No, Huckabee, that is what YOU celebrate. "We" do not have a national religion. Some people celebrate other holidays, and some people celebrate nothing. Comments like this from Huckabee make me think the forced political correctness may actually be worth it.

    And what about all the ultra-religious Christ talk in the ad itself? That's pretty overtly offensive and scary coming from someone who wants to be president– someone, who may I remind you, DOES NOT BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION. Repeat those five words in your head every time you see this guy, and never forget that he's a blind follower of fundamentalist religion and so stupid that he does not believe in scientific fact (as if that should even be a matter of belief). Frankly, I'd love to see a politician who's intellectual, forward-thinking, and thoughtful enough to declare that he doesn't have a religion. Even my main man Kucinich fails that test.

    As far as the subliminal message goes, my response is, "what?" What would be the point of a subliminal message in a blatantly religious ad that mentions Christ by name? To Huck's credit, his "Paul is dead" line was a pretty good retort.

    No. Nevermind. I'm not giving this religious nut credit for anything.

    Kucinich '08

    December 18, 2007 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. Patti, Brookhaven, MS

    Good for Huckabee! It's about time that someone spoke up as to the real reason for "Christmas". People don't mind taking time off work or having parties at Christmas time. If they don't believe in Christmas they need not have parties and take this time off of work. They just need to continue their everyday routines and let those of us who believe in it celebrate our beliefs the way other feel inclined to do theirs.

    December 18, 2007 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  18. Ian, Eastham MA

    "Paul is Dead"

    Where did that come from? This guy seems to have a sick sense of humor. Maybe that's why his kid hung a dog and slit its throat.

    Anyway, Ron Paul is still quite alive.

    December 18, 2007 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  19. joe, ahdamyiah iraq

    all right, way to go mike. merry christmas. americans sick of the non religious trying to take religion out of everything - from the 10 commandments, pledge of allegience, to a holiday that millions around the world celebrate - have a man they can look up to. values, faith, morals and the courage to stand by them are the most important traits in a leader as they will guide you through tough decisions. you don't have to shove your faith down others' throats, but it is nice to see someone showing genuine faith and not just going to church when the cameras are rolling.

    December 18, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  20. Andrew

    Really? Then why did the camera pan around ever so slowly to place the "cross" right behind his head? People that make these spots are very smart and have studied film making and marketing. You know what you did, we know what you did, lets move on.

    December 18, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  21. Brad, from the great state of Texas

    Uhh... Jonah, do you realize that it's called the "theory of evolution"? No, it's not a fact, as you claim, anymore than the story of Adam and Eve is. I still don't see why so many people are hung up over Huckabee's beliefs about the creation of the world. After all, it's all speculation because nobody was around when it happened anyway. How about we focus on current political/social/economic issues facing us TODAY, instead of worrying about how many birthdays Earth has celebrated?

    December 18, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  22. Fred, Darmstadt, GE

    this is guite funny,,, truthfully funny. Life is but every bit astonishing.

    December 18, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. Jim Cleveland ohio

    I beleive it is called seperation of church and state. Huck Finn here would not understand that. he thinks the Bible is the constitution. This guy scares me more than Hillary or Mitt. They are all a joke.

    Ron Paul is the only Candidate that speaks the truth, understands the constitution and the Federal reserve what a joke it is. It is owned by Wall Street and Wall Street is owned by the govt.

    Wake up America. Huck has no idea about these issues he is too busy preaching!!!!!!

    These good old boys need to stay on the farm

    December 18, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  24. Wayne, Greenville TX

    Mike Huckabee's message is about as subliminal as a two-by-four hitting you upside the head.

    December 18, 2007 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  25. Nathaniel Mounce, Somerset, Ky

    Haha. It really is astounding what people can come up with if they look hard enough.

    And to save you the time, it says nothing backwards. You'll hear only gibberish.

    December 18, 2007 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
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