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. David Seonu

    "Paul is Dead, Paul is Dead, Paul is dead," the Politician shot back wittily, a double entendre also referencing Paul on Fox and Friends quoting Sinclair Lewis, "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."

    December 19, 2007 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  2. Joe, Florida

    The message is so obvious that it sickens me to my stomach.

    We DON'T ALL celebrate Christmas. this guy is a nutcase. There are other religious holidays around hucky. You won't get elected buddy, you are no match for ANY of the Democrat contenders, especially Clinton or Obama. Just do yourself and your supporters a favor and go home.

    December 19, 2007 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  3. JoeT Warrenton VA

    I probably won't vote for Governor Huckabee for a lot of reasons, but this is not one of them. It's a BOOKSHELF people!

    December 19, 2007 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  4. Terry, El Paso, TX

    It is amazing to me that CNN, which is not a news reporting organization but an advertising company, reports this "cross" in the ad blithely as news. CNN's news reporting is designed for one and only one reason: to sell as much advertising as possible at the highest possible price. The ads that CNN runs by the thousands every day are filled with such suggestive images. How can anyone be surprised by this simple technique? Does the technique work? Of course it does. It sells insurance, razor blades, and political candidates very effectively. It is used on us by those we do business with. It is not a friendly thing to do.

    As for those who are arguing that a cross is appropriate at Christmas time, I think it is fine to use crosses in Christmas art, but I don't like it in advertising, whether the merchandise being sold is a candidate, a life insurance policy, or a car. The cross suggests eternal life, victory over the grave, holiness, and saintliness. Using it cheapens our cultural symbols.

    A final comment to those who are grumpy about the absence of Christ in Christmas and the phrase "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," I suggest that you put a cork in your cranberry-hole. Christmas is not your personal property. You do not own the copyright, the patent, or the trademark to Christmas. I own it as much as you do. If I prefer a secular holiday to a religious one, then I can certainly have one. The whole secular Christmas thing is simply a method by which retailers try to sell stuff to non-Christians. All of you evangelistic fundamentalists vote for the people who support "free market" policies, in which corporations are pretty much free to do anything they want to. It is the retailers who are stealing your holiday, not the Liberals. The legitimate targets for your criticism are Walmart, KMart, Penney's, Target, and that crowd, not the ACLU.

    December 19, 2007 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  5. Dorian, Buffalo NY

    As an atheist (married to a believer) what I can ssy about religion is this – I don't have an issue with anyone believing in god . My problem is with those believing trying to force it down my throat. Believe or not – it's up to you or me. When people wish me Merry Christmas I say same to you. I don't offer it, but I don't repudiate it either. Religion or the lack thereof should be private. That includes those running for public office.

    December 19, 2007 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  6. Don, Guilford, CT

    Geez, if this guy new he was going on tv he should have taken down his bookshelf, not killed a tree and saved the environment by using LED lights on it.
    This all seems to me that people dont have enough to worry about in there own lives

    December 19, 2007 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  7. Jay Nielsen, Savannah, GA

    IT'S A &%@!? BOOKCASE!!!!!

    December 19, 2007 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  8. Oliver Springs, TN

    GIVE ME A BREAK!! I'm a Democrat, but the people complaining about Huckabee injecting religion into politics by mentioning Crist, at Christimas time no less, will obviously complain about anything. And the floating cross? Maybe they want to ban all objects that intersect at 90 degrees. How paranoid!!

    December 19, 2007 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  9. Ted Griffin, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

    I can't believe you at CNN would lend credence to this by publishing it....hmmmm..on second thought, yes I can. On top of this hoopla, Britney's 16 year old sister is pregnant...whoopie dodo...imagine this will be making the front page now on CNN!!!

    December 19, 2007 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  10. Joe, Indianapolis,IN

    While watching this, I also saw a goat drinking a can of beer, an otter and a duck doing the mambo on a pond, and a woman without teeth who couldn't stop smiling. LOL Just kidding...never even seen the ad and don't want to see it. No one, including me, takes this guys seriously. He's still insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Oh, wait, there's a blindfolde donkey playing hopscotch in the foreground! LOL Thank you...I'll be here all week!

    December 19, 2007 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  11. Michelle, AL

    How many of you people who are having a fit about the word Christmas are going in to work on December 25? Shouldn't you tell your boss, excuse me sir/madam, I don't celebrate Christmas, so therefore I will be coming in to work on Tuesday. I seriously doubt that many people do. If your neighbor gives you a Christmas card, do you throw it back at them? Do you refuse gifts?

    Even if you don't believe in Jesus, don't celebrate Christmas, I'm sure you have no problem reaping the benefits of it.

    December 19, 2007 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  12. freetobeme, Rochester, PA

    Corky of west palm beach, florida. No, I don't think that it is "awesome" that I have a "right" to choose. I'm assuming that you mean the right to vote. Big deal. To choose what? Between the Tweedledee and Tweedledum candidates the Repubs and Demos will push at us in November 2008? Regardless of what we want and what we think, we will have only those candidates that have passed the muster of the Establishment. Those who promote real change, or MUCH BETTER STILL, a return to a Republic under the Constitution, won't have a chance at either the Republican or Democratic nomination.

    When I went to public school in the early 1960's, we were supposed to thrust out our chests and feel superior to the Soviet Union, which allowed its citizens to vote for the communist of the Party's choice. One party, one candidate. How, pray tell, is our system superior to that, except that we allow two candidates of the Establishment parties' choice.

    Democracy is a joke and majority rule is tyranny, pure and simple. What matters is the individual liberties that our Founding Fathers intended to secure for us through a Republic based upon the Constitution and buffered by the Bill of Rights. If we were still free, really free, it wouldn't matter who was sitting in the Oval office at the end of January 2009.

    December 19, 2007 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  13. Ben Campbell; Framingham, MA

    You know we're all getting a bit too riled up about this Merry Christmas/Happy Holiday's deal. I propose that we all just do this and move on. Why can't we all (the givers) just wish folks the joy of the season using the holiday we individually celebrate. The recipient of the greeting can accept that as our heart felt wishes for whatever holiday they celebrate and nothing more. It could be universal and no one should be offended and everyone should just appreciates the well wishes of another sincere, honest, and caring individual.

    December 19, 2007 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  14. RK

    If it weren't intentional you would highlight the tree in the background, not the shelf that looks like a cross, and then pan around his head so it's always in frame. The shelf is clearly, clearly meant to look like a cross. And you cannot in this day and age of political marketing was not meant to be there. I thought Christians were supposed to be honest and forthright in all they do, not deceptive. I don't care if he wants to run as a Christian or say Merry Xmas, that's all free speech, but don't say one thing and do another. That's not even "Christian".

    December 19, 2007 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  15. Theo, Manorville, NY

    The ad, Merry Christmas, was not, Merry Christmas, subliminal at all. Merry Christmas..

    You athiests posting on here are ridiculous. Most people still celebrate Christmas, and presidents are no exception. They have all carried their religious beliefs to the oval office in one form or another for 200 years, and our country turned out pretty good. Get a friggin' life!

    December 19, 2007 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  16. Angela, Blasdell, NY

    I must be really naive because I grew up with the impression that you celebrate what you chose or what is prevelant to your faith...otherwise just don't celebrate. Just as some people feel they shouldn't have to hear "Merry Christmas", I feel like it is my right to say it. It has to work both ways. Changing things to hinder one group to make another more comfortable doesn't make sense to's doing the same thing. I guess i'm just confused. I don't understand what is so offensive about christmas...I have never taken offense to any other religious holidays celebrated by those of other faiths. To each their own...

    Merry Christmas!

    December 19, 2007 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  17. Michael Arnaud-Glen Burnie, Maryland

    If the atheists don't like relgion, why do they and the politically correct crowd feel the need to get in an uproar about this message? None of the other candidates have done this. I'm in no way a Huckabee follower, but at least he has the guts to come out and say "Merry Christmas" to everybody.

    If the PC crowd and the atheists don't like what he has to say, don't listen.
    I'm 37 years old and I remember a time when you could walk down the street at this time of year and tell a total stranger "Merry Christmas" and the greeting was gladly returned. Do that nowadays and you take the chance getting sued or worse.

    Lets face some facts about the US. Maryland-started by Catholics; Massachussetts-started by Protestants;Florida-founded by the Spanish, who just happen to be Catholic;Louisana-started by the French who at the time were ardent Catholics. For the PC crowd and the Atheists to say that the US isn't a Christian Nation just shows that they don't read very much US History.

    By the way, the First Amendent says that Congress won't establish a national religon. There is no clause or paragraph in the Constitution calling for the seperation of church and state. So the PC crowd and the atheists need to go back and read the Constitution again.

    If memory serves, Ramadan starts latter this month going into January. To the Muslims citizens of our country, enjoy your celebrations openly and loudly. To our Jewish citizens, make those eight candles blaze gloriously during Hanaukah. To every Christian citizen, have a happy and loud Merry Christmas and lets take back the holiday season from the people who have nothing better to do than whine and complain about nothing.

    December 19, 2007 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  18. Mark, Newfoundland, Canada

    "some of the founders of this country and SIGNERS of the Declaration of Independence were men of ministry." - Jon from Plantation, FL.

    Get our facts straight, I think you're the one that has to get your facts straight. I'm a Canadian and I know that none of the founding fathers were even religious let alone ministers. Most of them didn't even want a priest or minister on their death bed. Jon you should read more history books and not fairy tales like the Bible and other books you find in a church.

    I feel bad for all of you below the 49th parallel. Your country is in ruins, the economy is barely afloat, your education and health care systems are of 3rd world quality, your government does whatever it wants, everyone is divided (just the way the Elite and the powerful want it), you've got people talking about religion when it is of no importance, your fighting wars for imperial dominance and oil and your country is afraid of terrorists that don't really exists(there is no real threat - if terrorists were as dangerous as our governments want us to believe than there would be attacks all the time but the fact is Islamist terrorists are nothing but a ruidmentary gang that don't have the means to inflict any real damage and remember just as many people die from guns each month in the U.S. has did on September 11th but you don't hear anything about that in the news) and the rich keep getting richer and the poor poorer. And you people are arguing about religion. Your country is just like the Romans and the Brits were before those empires fell (and need I say that every empire falls - so you should all come off your pedestal and let China takes its place). My fear is unlike the other two empires, you guys will probably kill us all and the worst part is you'll do it in the name of God. I'm sorry I'm rambling but I love Americans and everybody else in this world and that's why it so important you people get your house in order cause if you don't the next decade is going to make World War II look like Disney Land. It's time for America to accept its place in society as just another democratic country, no different than the rest. Democracy is a universal human trait not an Amercian one. That's a hard pill for most Americans to swallow. Anyways, I ramble to much. I don't care who wins the presidency, I just hope that he or she has some common sense and really does care about the peoople instead pretending like he or she does (which is what 99% of politicians do now).

    December 19, 2007 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  19. Jim, Bethlehem, Pa

    Oh my God..He said Paul is dead..Is this a conspiracy to kill Ron Paul and take his campaign money? Obviously I'm being sarcastic..You people in the media are absolutely nuts. Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

    December 19, 2007 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  20. James A. Cedar Rapids, IA

    The problem? Some Huck-bots are asking? The problem?

    How about that Huckabee is flat out LYING!? How's THAT for a problem? It's an extremely serious problem for me and for millions of others looking to vote for someone they can trust.

    If Huckabee is lying about something as simple as this, what else is he lying about? Actually, ALOT. And every time you look into this guy you see more and more lies.

    Hardly a "christian" in my book. More like an opportunist.

    You blew it once again for me, Mike.

    December 19, 2007 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  21. MG, seattle,wa

    The very word Christmas comes from the contraction of 'Christ Mass' — the worship of Christ

    Really? Seems for a VERY LONG TIME NOW it's been more a celebration of rampant consumerism, all in the name of fattening up the bottom line. Before you all go and claim one side of the aisle or political party as being the downfall of Christmas, you ought to look at what's REALLY trivializing and degrading what Christmas is truly all about.

    December 19, 2007 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  22. Willy, Chesapeake, VA

    To normal people; it's a shelf. To the liberals it's; The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Liberals eating their cheerios in the morning see a message in their spoon that says; oooo...

    December 19, 2007 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  23. ETM, Springfield, VA

    Huckabee is revealing himself to be every bit as phony as the other Republicans. He claims he does not want to discuss religion but constantly finds one way or another to rub our noses in it.
    I want a candidate who will strongly support the Constitution's separation of Church and State. The last thing America needs is another dimwitted theocrat in the Oval Office.

    December 19, 2007 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  24. Mark, Sarasota, FL

    The christmas ornaments stacked on the left side of the shelves, and the lighting, are skillfully there to clearly portray a christian cross FROM bookshelves.

    There is nothing wrong with a cross, the Governor could wear a cross around his neck for all I care, but lying to the news media is so sad.

    I think it is so dishonest that Governor Huckabee, or his production team, won't fess up to the fact that the bookshelf was intentionally used to portray a cross in the television advertisement.

    People are not stupid and this will unfortunately hurt the Governor since anyone that looked at the finished product could easily discern this issue well in advance.

    It makes the Governor look either stupid or dishonest.

    December 19, 2007 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  25. Tim, Omaha NE

    Like always the media tries to make something out of nothing. It looks like a bookcase to me. Maybe if I look hard enough I can see a Jesus image in the background to. And the media wonders why nobody take them serious.

    December 19, 2007 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
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