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. John, Dallas, TX

    This is *definitely* intentional, and the message the ad sends is chilling: "we" are all Christians and there is no room for anyone else. As an atheist, I don't mind Christians celebrating Christmas, but I'd appreciate their not shoving their religious superstitions down my throat ("the reason for the season", indeed).

    December 19, 2007 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  2. Anonymous

    According to the BiBle the Birthday of Jesus Christ was in the spring. However, I would define Huckabee as more Anti Christian than Christian.

    December 19, 2007 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  3. Beth Nashville, TN


    I have just the same right to celebrate what I believe as everyone else.


    December 19, 2007 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  4. Marc, Lafayette CA

    RE: Matt, Ny, NY

    The actual % of Christians in the U.S. is 76.5%...and declining.

    December 19, 2007 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  5. ETM, Springfield, VA

    The United States was not founded on Christianity or any other religion. The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and separation of Church and State, and provides that no religious test or oath may ever be used. God is not even mentioned in the national charter
    No one wants to stop Christians or anyone else from enjoying Christmas. What most of us do want is for Christians to stop trying to shove their mythologies down our throats.

    December 19, 2007 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  6. Steve, Philadelphia, PA

    While I'm not for or against Huckabee, I, like him, think that it is intellectually offensive and ridiculous to say "Happy Holidays" when it is, in fact, Christmas. The overwhelming majority of people in this country celebrate Christmas and it was founded by Christians. Various ethnic groups have attempted to essentially steal the country's heritage from the majority and there is, and will continue to be, a growing backlash against that.

    December 19, 2007 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  7. Dan Simpson, Saint Cloud FL

    Sad, has CNN nothing better to report?

    December 19, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  8. Mickey, Florence, AL

    I can't believe that no one has noticed that Huck is "blinking" a message in Morse code. The translation is roughly "Democrats and liberals are THE DEVIL!"

    Idiots. Find something constructive to do with your lives.

    December 19, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  9. C. D., San Diego, CA

    It appears pretty clear that the image of the cross was there on purpose with the 3 ornaments. Also if you look at the thickness of the shelves and the size of the ornaments, it is pretty clear that the image was added after the fact. If those ornaments are suppsoed to be on a shelf behind the tree - as it appears, then those are some huge ornaments. This clearly looks like an image that was purpsoefully placed there. Every element of ads like this are scruitinized by experts.

    So, my question is - if it is so obvious, why is Huckabee playing stupid and denying any meaning to the shelf? Just admit what you or your editors did and the good intentions behind it? Why hide? There is nothing to be ashamed of in the symbol of the cross.

    December 19, 2007 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  10. shannon, Charlottesville, Virginia

    *eyeroll* this clown doesn't seem to like people very much. and the last time i checked, corporations do a lot more to exploit and distort holidays, but you never see these religious people talk about that.

    December 19, 2007 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. The G; Henderson, NV


    Whom would Jesus waterboard?

    December 19, 2007 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. Fred Kentucky

    So, what if it was?

    Merry Christmas!

    God Bless us this Holiday!

    December 19, 2007 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  13. Christopher Metairie, LA

    It was "turn me on dead man," not "Paul is Dead," that you would hear if you played the Beatles' song backward. Perhaps Mr. Huckabee should get his facts straight before he tries to slough off a clearly subliminal message.

    December 19, 2007 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  14. Perry Hilton

    Apparently, anything (the cross) even remotely associated with Jesus Christ bothers many people. Why? Jesus is truth and when people see or hear anything remotely associated with the truth they rebel. They do not understand and/or do not want to know the truth. Truth either sets us free or convicts us.

    December 19, 2007 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. R U Kidding, Anywhere, NC

    People see what they want to see. Those who saw a cross have too much time on their hands.

    December 19, 2007 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  16. RogerCT

    Some people really need to get a life

    December 19, 2007 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. Lori, Pittburgh, PA

    It never ceases to amaze me that these people who get all worked up over crosses and not saying Merry Christmas are the same people saying use of those words affect their freedom of speech. Give me a complaining that I or anyone else is saying Merry Christmas .... is that NOT infringing upon my freedom of speech to say Merry Christmas?? If you expect to have freedom of speech then myself self as a Catholic Christian has just as much right to freedom of speech as those who don't believe is saying the words Merry Christmas. And Yes the holiday we are celebrating on Dec 25th is CHIRSTmas....that's how the holiday got it's origin. The 25th is the birthday of Jesus Christ. I guess we should change all of our holiday names to be politically correct as to not infringe upon everyone's freedom speech. Suggestions please, what should we say on St. Patrick's Day...Happy beer drinking day?? What about Easter? Happy Bunny and Egg Day?? Please provide me some suggestions, as I wouldn;t want to ruffle any feathers.

    December 19, 2007 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. Lori, Dover DE

    I don't understand the problem. Why is it controversial to have a Cross, whether intentional or not, in a Christmas message? Yet, the Cross is a symbol of Christianity, and Christmas is a Christian Holiday?

    December 19, 2007 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  19. Angela, Booneville, MS

    He may have just found himself some new supporters. God workd in mysterious ways – whether or not he meant for that to look like a cross, it does. Maybe God put it there. Anyway, I like the way he responded.

    December 19, 2007 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  20. Fred, Kentucky

    If the man can not stand up and talk about his God then how can he stand and lead a country.

    As for those of you who do not beleive in God, the father, the son (Christ), and the Holy Ghost....well, let's just say, one day you will!!!!!!!!!!

    December 19, 2007 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  21. brenna rochester, ny

    Good for Huckabee – wouldn't you want to have a candidate in office who will stand up for what they believe in. The reason everyone (including atheists) get vacation time at the end of December is because **wow** the majority of people are celebrating Christmas. For those that don't enjoy being wished a Merry Christmas, I also expect you to be at work on December 25th. And also, I am a Christian and I'm not going to wish someone a Merry anything else, regardless of their religion. If a Jewish person were to wish me a Happy Hanaukah, then I would respond with Merry Christmas. Its about being polite and respectful BOTH WAYS. Just because someone is in the minority does not mean that everyone else has to walk on egg shells around them to be politically correct.

    December 19, 2007 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  22. Bob

    I much less worried about the non-existent "subliminal" cross than the explicit pandering to Christians he spoke out loud in the message.

    Leave your Bible at home when you come to work Huckster. Thanks.

    December 19, 2007 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  23. Edwina Liston, Niceville FL

    I never noticed a cross behind Gov Huckabee until somebody called the bookcase "a cross". Don't we have a sick society, though?

    December 19, 2007 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  24. rada, houston, tx

    My education is in Marketing and I have read and study about product placement and other tools used in the industry for over 30 years...That bookcase was carefully staged that way. There is no way this was an accident. These people are playing for keeps and whoever thinks it was not put together that way is so naive it’s incredible. I say 10 points to the Hucky boy for the BUSS it has generated. That is my friend a great marketing strategy. FREE PUBLICITY and when you a running low in funds against someone like MITT this is great!!!

    December 19, 2007 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  25. Aaron, Ohio

    "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."

    Ok then...we have legalized abortion in America...notice the WE. I am completely against abortion along with millions of others. Does that mean I shouldn't say WE AMERICANS HAVE LEGALIZED ABORTION. Whether you like it or not Christmas is the reason for the season. If you don't celebrate it, don't go to the work christmas party, don't take the time off, give back the bonuses. But don't you dare say that WE can't be used you bigot.

    December 19, 2007 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
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