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. Bill, IA

    Wow Tom Soppe, you seem to have a lot of hate in your heart. The only real point I was trying to make, and I’ll concede that I may have gotten a little side-tracked, was that by attacking Huckabee over something as trivial as wishing his supporters a Merry Christmas, you create the potential for Christians to flock to his defense. Evangelical Christians are looking for a candidate to back and they have proven that they can be easily manipulated. They backed Bush in the previous 2 elections and made ALL of the difference for him all because he told them he was a born-again Christian. I have actually been to churches that pass out flyers to the congregation with the Christian pros and cons of the candidates listed “for their information”. Sermons are being prepared AS WE SPEAK that serve to give “insight” into the evils of the liberal-minded world. No doubt, someone will use your comments (Keep your Jesus out of My Government) as a war cry to rally in support of a new Bush. Pastors feel the need all across the land to tell their congregations how they should vote.

    Regarding my loyalties, I have no intentions of switching my support of Hillary to anyone. I will support her campaign until she is no longer running for President (be that February, June, November, or 2016). Regarding talking privately to God, I do it daily. It’s what Christians refer to as prayer. We believe that God hears us. We believe that he communicates with us through his Word (the Bible) and through his Holy Spirit. I’ve never verbally had God tell me that something is offensive. However, I have offended him often and know that it can be done. As a non-believer, I’m not asking you to fall for anything and I’m sure that you’ll dismiss this as poppycock. And that’s ok I guess. Understand that I know that you are entitled to your beliefs, opinions, and convictions. Just understand that Mike Huckabee is entitled to his as well.

    Merry Christmas Tom Soppe!

    Hillary ’08!

    December 19, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  2. Zaphod

    Iam more worried about what kind of kids Huckabee has than what his religion but he will not be able to separate one from the other. One of his sons was expelled from the Boy Scouts for torturing, cutting a dogs throat and hanging it. Nice family. I would compare him not to vick but to Dahmer. I hope we are not dumb enough as a country to once again put somebody in the WH who says God placed him there. And yes, Huckabee probably thinks that it's his religious right to be President.

    December 19, 2007 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  3. RuthieM

    Why is everyone all over Huckabee about his faith? Sure, Huckabee knew that was a cross behind him. And sos? What's wrong with that? Why doesn't he just come on out and say, yes, it's a cross back there. He is/was a Baptist Minister. Goodness gracious. But there's something about Huckabee that bothers me about this whole thing. I mean it seems he tries to hide some things that are true about the Bible and Jesus Christ just to make it politically correct as he campaigns. I think he'd better watch this because although he wants it both ways I don't really know if it can be done that way. And if it can, meaning embracing the entire America while still remaining true to what he knows, true to the Lord, then more power to him and of course all power to Him! And the same for Romney, I don't think Romney is being totally honest in revealing his faith to the American people. Has he said their book of faith is the Gideon Book? Has he said their name is Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? And so all this means something absolutely different from Christianity, yet they seem to want to try to make it seem as if it is all totally the same, and it is not.

    December 19, 2007 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  4. LW, Toronto, Ontario

    *sigh* What is it with the press and the media around Christmas time? Every bloody year, same thing. "Is it Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?" Come on, people. I'm a Jew, born and raised in Canada, and if someone says "Merry Christmas" to me, I say it right back to them. I don't get into this whole "I'm not Christian, you should say Happy Hannukah to me blah blah blah". In fact, I find it more insulting when people say "Happy Holidays" to me than "Merry Christmas", because it sounds like they're trying to pander to me (or at least trying to be politically correct, and there are few things I hate more than being politically correct). I just hope this stupid and asinine debate gets finished eventually and we can all go back to saying what we want, the way it's supposed to be.

    So, everyone, as Krusty the Clown says,

    "Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwazy Kwanzaa, Tip Top Tet, and a Solemn, Dignified Ramadan".

    December 19, 2007 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  5. jim Scottsdale AZ

    Hukabee is an idiot. A typical lying self serving preacher that feeds off people and takes their money. Unqualified from a State that the economy is so small who cares??
    This guy would not have a clue about the constitution. he just does his little smirk with those stupid preacher jokes.

    You people must be blind or just stupid to follow this idiot. This is like the Preachers that take all the money from the plate and drive 200,000 dollar cars where Rolexes and live in Malibu and have 4 otehr homes and these peole send them more money. They should be in jail.

    December 19, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Heaven forbid if we should have Christ like politicians..

    December 19, 2007 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  7. Mason Myatt

    A bookshelf. That's all–a bookshelf. No books on the shelves. But, a bookshelf. It probably had books on the shelves but God intervened to make us see only the Cross. Mysterious ways.


    The only thing worse than him thinking we are total fools is the possibility that he is right.

    December 19, 2007 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  8. ted, gilbert az

    I have no problem with anyone wishing me Merry Christmas. I do have a problem with someone running for president trying to show he is more Christian than someone else. He also is a religious bigot but Mormon bashing seems acceptable to some so-called Christians. I want a candidate to tell me his view on taxes and other important issues. I want an ethical president who doesn't solict gifts from other people while in office. People are actually saying they are supporting this guy because of this commercial. Look at his suggestion of a national sales tax and his foreign policy. A close look at this guy shows he is in no way qualified to lead the country.

    December 19, 2007 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  9. M.Apruzzese,Pittsford,NY

    Perhaps the tree has a secret message to – it looks like a space ship is flying towards a red planet – is Huckabee sending a message to his leader? The media is out-of-control and less truthful than Bush.

    December 19, 2007 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  10. Josh Key West, Fl.

    To all the bashers of Huckabee's Christmas wishes & western religious ideals. An upcoming group of "religious folks" will be in the spotlight soon & they will be running for office. Attacking "their religion & beliefs" will have dire consequences not only in America, but world wide! So have your fun now chopping up Huckabee's cross, his religious views & Christmas ball trilogy.

    You are about to meet & adhere to "The Ultimate Politically Correct Party". No Religious Bashing Allowed At All! Enjoy!

    December 19, 2007 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    To all my Democrat friends:

    Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

    To all my Republican friends:

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    December 19, 2007 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  12. Matt, Canoga Park CA

    Why is it all the athiests, jews, muslims and other non christian folk get so upset that someone says "Merry Christmas"

    So many post about "That is not what I believe" Get over it and grow up. I don't want politically correct responses kowtowing to every minority opinion when someone is trying to wish you well.

    Your in a minority because not many people think like you. Accept that. No one is saying what you think is wrong and that they do not accept you.

    They are just not making some generalized watered down and safe response to coddle and inflate the ego's of minority opinions. To do so goes against the original intention which was to wish you well.

    Now there is no harm in wishing someone well is there? There is no malice in the words or malice intended. By any means of saying it, it still means the same thing right? It's still a positive thing.

    So saying Merry Christmas to someone should not break out into some political furver and accepting of minority points of view. Saying Merry Christmas is a cultoral, ethnic, and religious term. Not just one but all.

    So for all the whiney people that bring up not my religion, accept my religion, specialize to my belief, why don't you start the accepting by accepting others and their beliefs as well.

    Accept that Merry Christmas just means that someone is making the effort to wish you the best at this time of year. From their point of view they are just being kind and thoughtful. That is how it is intended and that is how it should be taken.

    We accept that the words "All men are created equal" means all people not just the male of the species. Because in our hearts we accepted the change of meaning.

    So when someone wishes you Merry Christmas at this time that they really mean " Happy Hanuka" or "salam malakim" or "Have fun sitting alone wishing you were with family" or whatever your minority opinion or belief is that is what you are being wished.

    Maybe if you were more accepting of others they would be accepting of you. You can start by accepting that there is this majority in America and you are either some part of it or some part not of it. But you must accept it even if you don't agree with it or are apart of it.

    And remember that you only have that minority opinion and belief because the majority are accepting of you.

    And so to you all I say "Merry Christmas"

    December 19, 2007 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  13. Atheist, Milan, OH

    It is not Jesus Christ nor his teachings that intimidates the non-Christians among us.

    It is the self-righteousness of Christians that scares us, and their threats to take away our basic rights, such as: a woman's right to choose, the right of a gay couple to be able to enjoy the same advantages married couples have, and the right to have our children learn about the theory of evolution in their science classes. Among so many others.

    We have a separation of church and state for a reason. The religious Christian fundamentals among us are threatening to impede our progress as a nation. Frankly, I believe they will cause our collapse.

    "Live and let live" is not a concept the Christians seem to be all that familiar with.

    December 19, 2007 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Okay – for all those who think the "Paul is Dead" comment has to do with Ron Paul – where have you been? Do you even remember who The Beatles were? FYI – "Paul is Dead" is in reference to a Beatles song that when played backwards says "Paul is Dead". Huckabee is not insane, hes just making reference to a phrase that most Americans know the meaning of.
    Suggestion – do your homework before sounding like a complete idiot.

    December 19, 2007 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  15. j henderson kingsville texas

    hucks hurmor is about as dry as his sons ,.killing dogs is not funny and neither using god to get elected,.,.god dont like rich repubs.,no rich men get to heaven remember ,.good theng it didnt say anything about rich women hehhe,.,.txtj

    December 20, 2007 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  16. tbundro1277

    I live in South Carolina, while I don't mind Huckabee playing the religion card, I am more concerned about his stance(or lack of stance) on immigration. If Huck will sign a pledge to enforce existing immigration laws and kick out illegal immigrants, he may have my vote. I'm a true christian conservative. I couldn't vote for George W Bush because of how weak he was on immigration. I work as a manager at a video game store. If I wanted the border opened up, then I might as well voted for a Democrat, and atlest that way I would get a raise. I'm tried of people like bush saying that Mexicans will do jobs americans won't do. Mexicans work jobs that Americans aren't willing to do AT THAT PAYRATE! If you kick out the illegals, that forces American companies to pay more money to fill those jobs, or do it themselves! Please come out strong againsts Corportation Executives and Illegals, the candidate that comes out VERY strong against Illegal Immigration, or John Edwards has my vote!

    December 20, 2007 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  17. Christine, NC

    First Amendment reminder
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
    Now to the comment from Matt CA:
    "Why is it all the athiests, jews, muslims and other non christian folk get so upset that someone says "Merry Christmas" ...You say "ALL" this is a typical prejudice statement.Most of the other religious groups have the same respect for other religion than for their own .We are the one who over 2000 years try to put Christ in them ,not respecting their religion. It is not the majority of islam who hates and do not respect christians and their believes , it is the extremist of islamic groups, jewish people are still hated today by those islamic groups and some so called christian groups.We do do not tolerate pagans bcs they believe in the natrual things earth water etc,which we, bcs we do not understand compare with whichcraft. This is called Religious intolerance which is either intolerance motivated by one's own religious beliefs or intolerance against another's religious beliefs or practices. It manifests both at a cultural level, but may also be a formal part of the dogma of particular religious groups.

    The mere statement on the part of a religion that its own beliefs and practices are correct and any contrary beliefs incorrect does not in itself constitute intolerance. There are many cases throughout history of established religions tolerating other practices. Religious intolerance, rather, is when a group (a society, a religious group) specifically refuses to tolerate practices, persons or beliefs on religious grounds.

    Religious intolerance may be purely religious, but can be a "cover story" for an underlying political or cultural motive.

    Religion has nothing to do with politics and should be seperated,it is just wrong to use religion to get browny points.This takes away from the main issues that politians should concentrate on .We dicect christmas messages of our candidates instead of to decide who benefits us the most and what their agenda is .It is very sad to see still today how much disrespect and lack of tolerance we have for each other in any aspect, religious, racial or what ever
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

    December 20, 2007 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  18. Tom, New Brunswick, NJ

    Someone already commented on this but it's worth repeating: The story talks about a cross in the ad as being a possible subliminal message but fails to note that to the left there is also a CHRISTmas tree in plain sight. Yes the tree has pagan roots and it's at the crux of holiday commercialism–where do the gifts go?–but it is nonetheless a religious symbol. Get on the ball CNN.

    December 20, 2007 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  19. thefishermen

    Human nature and memory being what they are, few "Christians" managed to stay on Christ's path. In fact, the Bible states that the "path to righteousness is narrow" and few will follow it, while most will find the path to "destruction is broad and easy to follow."

    Forget others, the answers are there for all to read. it's like cliff notes for life.

    December 20, 2007 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  20. K Wilkinson MG TX

    Stick to the issues! As a Christian, I was willing to take a closer look at this candidate.

    Huckabee = High taxes, benefits for illegals, soft on criminals, no foreign affairs experience, several cover-ups, obvious bigotry of millions of people, manipulation of the legal system, constant ethics comittee reviews and violations... Need I go on?

    You can wish me a Merry Christmas all you want Gov. Huckabee, I don't trust you any farther than I could throw you. You are NOT my kind of Christian, the truthful and responsible kind!!!!


    December 20, 2007 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. AJ, IL

    What's the big deal?! Out of all the political holiday ads running, Mike Huckabee's and Obama's are the best. Heaven forbid, Mike Huckabee talking about celebrating Jesus's birthday and the importance of family and friends...(sarcasm). Hey dumb Americans I celebrate Christmas because I pay homage to Jesus being born, not to some fat white guy in a loud red suit claiming to have magical powers.

    December 20, 2007 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. therealist

    Sometimes its better to be lucky than good..

    December 20, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  23. Casey, Cincinnati OH

    Why are you guys so upset about a religious man running for President? Goodness–he is not devisive. He's real. At least he's honest about his faith. If you want someone who waves his hands during every answer, then vote for Romney. Huckabee has gone out of his way to be inclusive, while being true to his faith. The strong reactions I see to Huckabees faith tell me more about you folks than it does about Huckabee.

    December 20, 2007 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  24. Phil Motta, Phoenix

    If Huckabee had just said "Merry Christmas," he would have preempted this flap. But, his intent wasn't just to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. His intent was to single out religious conservatives and send them an exclusionary "I'm your man" message by pointing out what is obvious to them – namely that Christmas is "the celebration of the birth of Christ." That comment shows that this was not an innocent holiday greeting. It was a blantant "nudge" message. Huckabee shamelessly exploited occasion of celebration of the birth of Christ for a purely political purpose.

    December 20, 2007 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  25. Ajay Jain

    Hucabee our Christian candidate started it all and now all will follow. After all it is the festive season and religion is in the air. May Hucabee be the GOP nominee so Hillary can be President in 2009.

    Go Hillary44 08!

    December 21, 2007 04:22 am at 4:22 am |
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