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. James A. Cedar Rapids, IA

    And furthermore, if Huck wanted a cross in the shot, why not just put a cross in the shot? Why the sneakiness? Why the denial?

    Is Huckabee actually ashamed of his religion?

    And why is he pretending this isn't a political ad, but instead just a warm wishes to, oh, the early states?

    That's the PROBLEM Huck-a-bots. Your candidate is slimy. He lies and manipulates, just like his supporters all over the internet.

    December 19, 2007 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  2. D Farhie Austin, Texas

    "When facism comes to America, it will be cloaked in the flag and carrying a cross". This man is dangerous.

    December 19, 2007 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  3. Justin, New York

    ENOUGH! Huckabee.. not all of us worship your god, jesus, or even acknowledge them. I am not of your faith yet you and Romney continually shove Christian or Mormon religion down my throat as an essential part of your campaign.

    Huge turn-off!

    December 19, 2007 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  4. Randy S. Lawton, OK

    It's only been in the last 100 yrs that Christmas has been celebrated by Christians.
    Posted By Dave, Kansas KS : December 18, 2007 6:41 pm

    No problem with the rest of your little history lesson, but the above is just stupid. You're saying the first Christian Christmas celebration was in 1907, absolutely absurd.

    And the fact of the matter is regardless of origins, Christmas today is a Christian holiday, if it weren't why are all the seculars so up-in-arms about it in the public venue.

    this guy isn't try to reach out to all Americans necessarilly
    Posted By Surrealist, Fort Myers, FL : December 19, 2007 8:28 am

    Umm, excuse me, he's running for President, that's exactly what he's supposed to be doing.
    Personally, I have no problem with his Christmas message, but Christians are not the only ones celebrating a holyday this time of year, and he came off as exclusionary.

    December 19, 2007 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  5. Pat Webster, Harrisburg, PA

    Way to go, Mike. Christmas, after all, IS Christ's Mass. If not for Christ, why would we even celebrate Christmas? Why would we even WANT to? Forget the Happy Holidays and let's celebrate the Merry HOLYDAYS. Christmas just ain't Christmas without CHRIST.

    December 19, 2007 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. James A. Cedar Rapids, IA

    Oh, and BTW, I notice CNN changed the picture to show how the "bookshelf" was more highlighted in the video. Their previous photo was clearly manipulated to make the "bookshelf" look unimportant.

    Just what I want in another Presidency, more propaganda and another president calling people paranoid kooks when they see right through it.

    If you want to run a campaign as a righteous Christian, you just might want to start acting like one. Lying is most certainly NOT Christian.

    December 19, 2007 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  7. Steve, Harrisburg PA

    This is just another example of how CNN and the rest of the mass media have looked for anything possible to criticize Huckabee for. It really is sad that this is the news we get these days. It was an uplifting ad for a change, which of course some felt the need to spin into something negative. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.

    December 19, 2007 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  8. Fritz - Manchester, NH

    This is becoming more and more and more and more *&^%$# by the day. The guy's religious, a minister (with or without a degree – that means nothing), and may OR may not have had a window pane in the background that looks similar to a cross. This is like the little old man in Guatemala that makes a peanut butter and mango jelly sandwich and the oil from the jelly makes an imprint of Mary, and BINGO – it's a MIRACLE! Should Mike have had a slew of Star's of David (or is is Star of David's?), an Islamic crescent, and a Wiccan symbol also "imaged" behind him? What's next? Hillary with a "subliminal" HRT message for all her supporters, or John McCain "introducing a new anxiety medication for post-traumatic stress sufferers? Let's focus on the issues, for Christ wonder this whole process makes this country look like the joke it's becoming! And who's gonna get us the hell out of Iraq? I'm sure those soldiers and airmen could care less about who's got what "subliminally" in their campaign ads. Let's get real!

    December 19, 2007 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  9. Carey, Camarillo CA

    Oh my gosh!!! He talks about Jesus!!! He's not allowed to do that is he? All you PC people out there need to get a life. Most of this country is Christian. Get over it.

    December 19, 2007 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  10. Debbie, Midland, MI

    It's a window pane!!!!!!!

    December 19, 2007 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  11. Josh, Little Hocking, OH

    Go MIKE!!!!! These PC nuts can just sit back and watch as you win the general elect.!!!! Woohoo!!!

    December 19, 2007 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  12. mamajama grand blanc mich

    This is innocent, it's an 'X' on it's side, not a cross. A bookshelf. But lets face it: his christianity is his first priority. There's nothing wrong with this– unless you're running for office and will be tempted to impose your religion onto others. I wonder if he would answer this: since most all evangelicals believe that 'end of times' and 'second coming' mythologies are real, and that it is SUPPOSED to include horrific wars, natural disasters, ugly ugly ugly....until the christians 'win'--then where is the motivation to learn to resolve the global/religeo/political differences that cause all these wars? IF you thought you were doing 'god's will' and believe yourself a 'stepping stone' for the unfolding of prophecy....where's the incentive to try to find dialogue and get along with our 'enemies?'-Our current president believes he's doing the 'will of the lord' and prays to carry it out. This includes war and violence. But then again, many world leaders also believe the same thing: that they are doing the will of whatever god/allah/christ,etc. What's the difference. Why aren't people talking about this? If we keep electing proud religious leaders who think war is supposed to happen or that they're 'called' to be a part of the process, what's to stop them from silently condoning it all and sympathizing with the process, even praising the process? BinLaden thinks infidels/jihad. Bush thinks sinners/crusade. We don't hear about this stuff, except via Pat Robertson TV or accidental/idiot comments by mainstream politicians. Cant' we look at the Islamic leaders of the world to see the backwards wrongness of it all? Evangelical Christians are no different: that is, we're not ever really supposed to get along. Must we forget the atrocities made in the name of religion all over history? People: ask the unwelcomed questions, ask the religious questions, ask and wait for the foot in the mouth answers. Why don't the Christian leaders say it up front? Because they know how stupid it sounds. So, ASK....And I wish someone would run as a Secular Humanist–sadly, just saying the words would end the politicians career. Talk about backwards.

    December 19, 2007 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  13. Darrin, COLUMBUS OH

    Like it or hate it, this ad has done exactly what it was intended to do – rally conservative Christians against the "godless" leftists. He is now the candidate of Christians defending Christianity like some guardian angel. Yes, the bookcase was calculated. He played it off to make those who had issue with it look like crazy people so when the attacks came, he could play his faith defender role. This is what most GOP candidates do. They seek to draw a clear line between the God-fearing and those who question the church and the establishment. GOP – good Christians, Dems – bad atheists bent on destroying Christianity. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy of good vs evil... armageddon that any devout Christian will buy into and perpetuate because it's what they want to believe and accept as inevitable. Mindless sheep.

    December 19, 2007 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  14. John Galt

    Hank Reardon for President!

    December 19, 2007 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  15. Hankmorgan, Washington, D.C.

    Hmm... suprised someone didn't reference the Trinity at the same time. Those Christmas balls next to the "cross" could be the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost... or COULD they? This is not a new tactic. The lectern at the last Republican National Convention displayed the Cross and no one apologized or even noticed. So why is this "subliminal" thing suddenly a big deal?

    December 19, 2007 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  16. Darrin

    Not only is the cross apparent, but the three ornaments definitely appear to represent the trinity. How sneaky...

    December 19, 2007 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  17. Debbie, Midland, MI

    Oops! I stand's a shelf!!! And, for those who are not in the "we" group of those who celebrate Christmas, maybe you should work on that day 🙂 Seems like you're reaping the benefit of something you don't believe in.

    December 19, 2007 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  18. K. Smith Minneapolis,MN

    There's nothing subliminal about it. There it is in plain sight, and yes, it is intentional.

    December 19, 2007 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  19. Amy, Ansonia, CT

    Sometimes a bookshelf is just a bookshelf . . .

    December 19, 2007 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  20. bukky, Baltimore MD

    if it were just a book shelf there would books on it therefore making it LOOK more like a book shelf and LESS like a cross.

    This wouldn't such a big freaking deal if he had put a real cross up there... but dont try to sneak it in.

    December 19, 2007 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  21. Jeff, Tampa, FL

    From a stictly neutral standpoint, as I have no religious affliation, all I can say to this rehetoric is....FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO WHINE ABOUT!! I celebrate a holiday called Chistmas, it means different things to different people. Last time I check it wasnt against the law to say Merry Christmas. If you dont celebrate Christmas...SO WHAT? Take it as a nice gesture from someone wishing you a nice holiday. I am a devout democrat, and wouldnt vote for a republican if you paid me! I am offended by the people on here BASHING a fellow american over his ad. If someone didnt bring this "cross" to my attention, I wouldnt have noticed it...and now that I DO really dont care. Neither should anyone else

    December 19, 2007 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  22. JG, Little Rock, AR

    The ad was filmed in a private home where they happened to have their Christmas tree placed in front of a built-in bookcase next to the fireplace. Not a studio where lighting was controlled and props were setup.

    Like Huckabee himself, the background isn't a prop – it's real. Wow, imagine that.

    December 19, 2007 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  23. Deb, Macon Georgia

    If the commercial message is about Christ and Christmas holiday, then what is the big deal even if there was an actual cross in the commercial....

    December 19, 2007 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  24. Jerry, Oakland, CA

    John G. in Charleston, AWESOME RESPONSE:
    Ditto; Merry Christmas!

    December 19, 2007 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  25. james, newport, Ky

    The first thing I thought when I saw the ad, before any of this broke, was that it looked like the bookshelf was intentionally lit up to resemble a cross. The way the camera slowly moved to put it into the center of the picture had to be either intentional or an eery coincidence. Mike's time in the spotlight, though, is almost up. The media darling, Rudy G., will be back center stage again soon. Thanks for playing, Huck.

    December 19, 2007 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
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