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. George, New York, New York

    I have never understood why fundamental Christians display the cross at Christmas?

    The Christmas religious symbol is the Star of Bethlehem heralding the arrival of the Christ Child.

    The Cross is an Easter symbol – heralding Redemption!

    This confusion of symbols is "symbolic" of all that is wrong about the so-called "Christian Fundamentalists" who know nothing about the true tenets of the Christian faith!

    December 18, 2007 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  2. martiniano, San Diego, CA

    Why does it have to be subliminal? Huckabee makes no bones about his Christianity. I am an Obama supporter, but I respect Huckabee. I think I could live with him as President, even though I am not Christian. He is a thinking man. He doesn't set off my bush-dar.

    December 18, 2007 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |


    December 18, 2007 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  4. Benjamin, Los Angeles, CA

    His bookshelf has no books! The most telling aspect of this spot isn't the alleged subliminal cross; the barren bookshelf illustrates the intellectual void inhabited by Mr. Huckabee and his evolution-doubting supporters. I doubt the absence of books is a deliberately coded signal of anti-intellectualism. More likely, bookless shelves simply reflect the reality in Huckabee's political community.

    December 18, 2007 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  5. GRS


    December 18, 2007 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  6. Pg Mulvaney, Somerville, Ma

    Once again, Gov. Huckabee panders to the religous right: he knows quite well that the word "Holiday" derives from "Holy Day", and as such is a pefectly innocent midwinter festival greeting. I bet he considers Christmas, (or Xmas, it's Chi-for-Christ Greek further contraction), a holy day, whether or not he takes a holiday that day. I'll further wager that he isn't going to attend Mass on Dec.25th! Now, somebody tell me just what the heck is IN Congressman Tancredo's "National Creed"...are we electing a President or a Lord Protector?

    December 18, 2007 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  7. Deen, Brooklyn, NY

    I am a Muslim American and I actually appreciated the warm wishes offered by Mike. He seems to be sincere in his message and it was a nice change to hear something positive than a mudsling comment aimed at an opponent.

    Personally I would rather have some one in the presidential office that had respect for a God and is not extreme about their views. I think Mike has a good presence to bring Americans together. Whether he is sincere about his words is hard to say as he is a politician. But even so if his words and messages bring the country together then it a good for this beautiful country.

    Stop knit picking at everything. We will never find anyone perfect that satisfies everyone's personal policy. It is time that we unite on the very big issues and save our country.

    December 18, 2007 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  8. Mrs. Moceri, Los Angeles, Ca

    It's the REASON for the season!!
    MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all! I'm very glad that Christians are finally speaking up. I am so sick and tired of always hearing about being "polically correct" all the time. I for one DON'T CARE about being that way, it's Christmas. And so what if there was a CROSS in the back ground, big with it.

    December 18, 2007 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. Ele'anore Lansing MI

    Well, Mr. Huckabee, I won't burden you with a Pagan vote. Since I celebrate Yule at this time of year, and not Christ Mass.

    December 18, 2007 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  10. Eli, greenville, sc

    Did anyone notice the subliminal holiday tree behind him to the left?

    December 18, 2007 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  11. Matt Tunseth, Kenai Alaska

    Interesting article, another sad day for journalism.
    I noticed not a single source was cited criticizing the ad, which is obviously intended to send a Christian message (he says "God Bless" for crying out loud). Who are these unnamed critics?
    Then, if you go to his Web site, he touts the spot at "the ad everyone is talking about." Isn't this just a case of a political campaign creating a story through the media to create some much-needed hype?
    Even worse, it apparently took two CNN writers (Rebecca Sinderbrand and Steve Brusk) to come up with this piece.

    December 18, 2007 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  12. Tom Ballard, Kansas City, KS

    Doesn't look subliminal to me looks like it's pretty blatant and I'm sure it's comforting to the others that think the earth is six thousand years old. But, Mike does have that cross-marketing approach which can be reflected in his reponse, "Paul is dead" which along with his bass playing and frequent comments on music are targeted for the left and secular. I am an athiest, but I celebrate the winter or solstice by goodwill gestures and gift giving. I know others that celebrate hanukkah, Kwanza or Rammadan. Huckabee is a zealot, and I think Rudy and Ron Paul are a little closer to reality or rationalization. ~Peace to All~

    December 18, 2007 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  13. Christopher Majewski Cincinnati, Ohio

    Huckabee's comments are very selfish, narrow-minded and centric on his religion.
    I'm Catholic and I celebrate Christmas, but I don't wish 'Merry Christmas' outside the house. I always say 'Happy Holidays' for fear that someone will feel left out, and the holidays are a time for everyone to feel good. Huckabee just comes across as saying "To hell with the rest of the holidays!," which is very un-accepting and closed-minded of his fellow man.

    Happy Holidays everyone! Stay safe and enjoy family and friends:)

    December 18, 2007 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  14. Ty Davis, Statesboro, GA

    This is a joke, right? Isn't this the ad where Huck literally injected the name of Jesus Christ in the commercial? Why you guys would run this story is beyond me. How can anything be subliminal in an ad where Christ is overtly the theme? Just the thought of it seems stupid. Why would someone put the name of Jesus in an ad but put a subliminal cross in the background? This story just makes me want to vote for the Huckster even more. You people are crazy, or just desperate for a story!

    December 18, 2007 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  15. Corky, west pal beach florida

    Please stop! I know America is better than this! Whether your choice is Paul, Huck, Clinton or whomever, your right to choose is the awesome part! How about this people; let's start blogging about the POSITIVE stuff and stop playing the childish game of he-said-she-said. 911 showed us we can work together. Let's not let those who have gone before us die in vain.

    December 18, 2007 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  16. David, Fort Worth, TX

    What a non-issue. The man was talking about Christmas. Who cares if there is an image of the cross in the back? It's appropriate for the topic. It's not like he was giving a policy speech on Comprehensive Immigration Reform with a cross in the back. Sheesh, get a life.

    December 18, 2007 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  17. Jessica, Dallas, Texas

    Wow, so now we can’t even wish each other a Merry Christmas? Who cares if you’re a politician? Christmas is Christmas, regardless. Now you're just searching blindly for something to criticize him on. Watch Huckabee in interviews and read his Web site, rather than only listening to what his critics say. I saw him on Larry King Live, and I felt like he genuinely addressed all the questions. No playing dodgeball for him. What a breath of fresh air to find a candidate who actually answers the question that’s asked!

    December 18, 2007 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  18. C Molina, Los Angeles, CA

    No, it's not a subliminal message, it's a friggin shelf!!! It's so disgusting how there are "watch dog" groups out there waiting to pounce on anything they don't approve of. It's always the biggest hypocrites who cry the loudest. I'm a Democrat, but I see nothing wrong with Huckabee's photo. GET OVER IT PEOPLE!!!

    December 18, 2007 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  19. Dave Potts, Charlotte, NC

    There's no such thing as a last minute ad libbed spot that looks that good. I'm sorry Huck, but those of us in advertising and production just aren't that dumb. Second of all, just look at the still frame... no lighting designer in his right mind would ever highlight an object in the background like that without it being intentional. Seriously, anyone who says it's a coincidence does not understand the amount of time, effort, and planning that goes into something like this.

    December 18, 2007 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  20. OJC, PHX, AZ

    No way a minister becomes president. That would really suck. The last thing I want my president doing is making a decision because "God" told him to. Most clergymen are shady anyway (ie, Catholic Priests, Falwell (racist), Greedy sleazebag country ministers)

    December 18, 2007 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  21. Pippen, Arlington VA

    Yet another non-story. Why CNN wishes to contribute to the current political climate of covering everything but candiadte positions on the issues is simply beyond me.

    December 18, 2007 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  22. (The Rev) John Flanigen, Moundville, AL.

    The United States Constitution does not say, "freedom FROM religion", but rather, Freedom OF religion. Those who must attempt to convert another do not know the story of Jesus and the rich young man.

    December 18, 2007 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  23. Raphael, Los Angeles, CA

    This is a TOTAL subliminal gesture!

    Can't you all see it? It's a plus sign and he's subtly saying that he's good at math and that the current administration is mathematically inept.

    How dare you push your math skills on us Huckabee!!!

    Just because the No Child Left Behind is a detriment to the educational system doesn't mean you have to push your math signs on us. That's it, I'm switching my vote to the Democratic side!

    December 18, 2007 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  24. Mike C, Bridgeton MO

    What is the big deal if it's a cross or not? The man said 'God Bless' so it's not as if he's hiding his faith. Once again, the 'stir' caused is in the minds of the media, stirring it up. Would the media be so quick to get on his case if a candidate had said 'Praise be Allah'?

    December 18, 2007 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  25. JC, Boston, MA

    Who cares about the bookshelf... the problem is that Huck is another ignoramus who doesn't understand the separation of church and state. And, who isn't sick of the Hucks of the world trying to re-write history with all that "America was founded as a Christian nation" drivel. BTW, the Beatles reference was trite.

    December 18, 2007 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
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