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. Jessica, Aubrey, Texas

    To everyone who said that "we" don't all celebrate Christmas ... I thought that by "we" he meant we, as a country. And that's accurate. Christmas is a national holiday. Government and corporate offices are closed. We take off work and spend time with friends. On the calendar of federal holidays, it's called "Christmas." Too bad the very word is offensive. You may not celebrate this holiday, but the vast majority of us do. We're not forcing our religion on you by wishing you a merry Christmas. The next thing you know, it's going to be wrong to say "God bless you." "Well, what do you mean by God? What if I don't believe in God? I don't want to be blessed by him..." Give me a break!

    December 18, 2007 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  2. Pamela

    I didn't even notice the cross until everyone started sounding off. I was listening to his message. Had to go back and see it again to see the cross and I'm a Christian. Focus on the person and what is being spoken and stop contriving every gnats knuckle to some "Oh, I'm SO offended" routine. Real tired of it.

    December 18, 2007 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  3. L.M., Ardmore, Oklahoma

    While I cannot believe how many of you missed the holy "trinity" on the shelf, I was really less concerned with the cross, the trinity, the message or the song than I was with that poor excuse of a sweater the guy was wearing.

    December 18, 2007 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  4. Kyle Yen, Walnut Creek California

    Wow. It's a bookshelf... with ornaments on it. Everyone start freaking out, now.

    December 18, 2007 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  5. Scott, MI

    It's interesting that CNN took the liberty to subdue to lighting on the "bookshelf" to make it just look...umm... normal.

    In the ACTUAL ad, the lights are set up to purposefully bring out a "cross" from it and move the camera angle and "depth of field" to make the cross appear to "float."

    Yes. It was extremely diliberate just as diliberate as the "halos" seen around Bush's head in thousands and thousands of photos in the media (or the Romney "speech" at an official "seal of the U.S. President" podium.)

    I actually don't have a huge problem with what Huckabee did, but then lying about it, I do. He would have been better off just calling it "marketing genius" and shrugging at the critics. Lying about it like it wasn't intentional sets off alarm bells for me. What kind of President will he be if he will lie about something so little?

    December 18, 2007 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  6. anonymous, chicago, il

    let's ask what kind of person would abuse his powers to prevent rightful investigation into his son's act of hanging, torturing and killing (slitting it's throat) a stray dog? i'm a christian, but this in no way means i would ever support a candidate like that. some may say "it's only a dog." but we can easily say that about everything else.

    December 18, 2007 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  7. Independent Voter, TN

    I just want all you religion bashers to know that I (along with many others) pray for your salvation and wish you had the peace that comes from faith, hope, grace and love.

    As one of the 83% of Americans who is Christian, I'd like to say that quite frankly, you don't know what you're missing.

    December 18, 2007 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  8. carl,virginia beach,va

    Huckabee played this perfectly –stir up the resentment over a clear display of his "so-called" Christian beliefs–And in so doing so stir up the Religious Christian voters–Brilliant Mr. Huckabee-

    December 18, 2007 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  9. Brian, Glen Cove NY

    Ridiculous denial by Huckabee.
    Of course the high contrast lighting on the book shelf was intentional. The cross is framed perfectly and more well lit than Mike himself. But at the same time, so what? He is a Christian Republican candidate, why wouldn't he want to emphasize that? Why is it wrong to display the cross?

    Go to thelivingroomcandidate website if you don't think that every last frame of a campaign ad isn't managed.

    What makes it even more convincing is Huckabee's lame denial. Last minute? Christmas is the same time every year Mike. And you've been campaigning in those states for months now.

    And his claim that it is an ad just so Mike could tell people "Merry Christmas" in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. No nothing more than a highly expensive Christmas card sent to people you don't know.

    December 18, 2007 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  10. Brandon, CT

    Tax hike Mike trying to steal the Christian Evangelists, eh.

    Wack job religious zealot / Bush 2.0

    December 18, 2007 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  11. Sensible Joe, Gainesville FL

    Huckabee neglects to mention how at this time of year, some Americans celebrate Christmas, others Hanukkah, others Kwanzaa, others Eid al-Adha, others Winter Solstice, others New Year's Day, others nothing at all. In mentioning "Christmas" is a contraction of "Christ's Mass," he neglects to mention this is a Roman Catholic thing, for which reason his Protestant forebears OUTLAWED Christmas in the United States well into the 19th century, making it an ordinary day of work, business and government during which churches were closed under penalty of fine or jail time.

    December 18, 2007 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  12. Rhiannon, Liberty Kentucky

    Thank you SO much Dave in Kansas for spelling out the truth about Yule! It is so refreshing to see more and more posts on the political ticker from real, open-minded, educated spiritual folk. I was raised Southern Pentecostal and am now Pagan. What a breath of fresh air!

    May your Yule be filled with blessings & love!

    December 18, 2007 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  13. Joshua, Nashville, TN

    Whoa. Someone said a theology degree is not "real"? If you were working for one, especially a university based one like I do (Vanderbilt) you would beg to differ. They do not come easy. Please stop the degrading blanket comments.

    As for the cross in the background, I've got to admit I did not notice it from the picture.

    I guess I should mention for "validation's" sake that I have never and will never vote Republican - not as long as they stand for a foreign policy of dominance and coercion, fail to provide adequate healthcare, education, and other social services for its citizens, and is willing to form a transparent government... everything Democrats are saying they are working for. My prayer to God is that they are telling the truth.

    December 18, 2007 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  14. Annie; Amarillo, Texas

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Enough said.

    December 18, 2007 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  15. GW, Omaha, NE

    Huckabee will never be president, so don't get your feathers ruffled. From a purely political standpoint, the advertisement is brilliant. He couldn't buy better advertising for the meat and potatoes conservatives who will eat this up.

    December 18, 2007 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  16. Tickticker, Scottsdale AZ

    And New Years comes from New – Year. Why, that's a holiday! That makes 2 in one weeks time?!?! That makes it "Holidays" and I want yours to be happy. The contraction is now "Happy Holidays" instead of Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Thanksgiving, etc.

    I'll just say "Happy Holidays" instead. If I'm in Church, I feel comfortable enough to say Merry Christmas and leave it at that, but usually only during Christmas Mass. Imagine that.

    December 18, 2007 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  17. Bruce, Franklin, TN

    Dave in Kansas: You serve no one by posting your mistaken opinion of the facts.

    In 350 AD the Bishop of Rome, Julius I, chose December 25th as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Look it up.

    December 18, 2007 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  18. newz4i

    Beware when you open your Christmas present this year. An Evangelical Christan fanatic may be secretly watching your fingers to ensure you unwrap non-secularly.

    December 18, 2007 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  19. Tom Dedham, Mass

    I will hammer this guy FOREVER on his policies but not on this non-story.

    "We as a nation", meaning the HUGE majority (about 85-90 percent) do indeed celebrate Christmas and that includes many of our non-Christian friends.

    If you don't want to celebrate, work that day, don't give out presents and CELEBRATE whatever you want.

    I encourage it, do what makes you happy and share it with others.

    If you want to be a miserable, whiny insignificant piece of crap who believes in nothing, crack a cold one and celebrate that.

    December 18, 2007 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  20. Wife....toughest job in the Air force..

    I have just digested comment on the christians, atheist, jewish, beatles and i guess i missed any reference to darwin in here. The comments on the bookshelf/cross/plus (my personal favorite) represent the varied perceptions.

    Find what makes you think, what motivates you as a person, become passionate and dedicated, the very life that stirs inside of you.

    The people that are driven to try to accept the responsibility to oversee "the country that was established for all to come that will" have found a passion. Something motivates them.

    As people we strive for reasons to celebrate, reflect, rejuvinate, believe in and look foward to.

    I enjoy learning about my Jewish co-worker who is so passionate about her faith. Though I am not Jewish, I believe we are motivated by similiar passions.

    My atheist friend and I are going to a basketball game on Saturday. I think I want to ask him why he put up a christmas tree? Do you think its because retailers depend on the fourth quarter revenues for profit?

    I heard men of faith state that in thier studies, Christmas is celebrated in the wrong season. hmm?

    I can take a simple statement and change a letter to my own interpetation....
    Christmas Love...Christ Was Love.
    I guess in someones' book I am a non-atheist...

    I want the men and women that are in charge of the use of my husbands talents and skills in the Air Force to make the best decisions on how to use them.

    Instinct,Good from bad, morales to not having any, right from wrong, choices and not, love and hate...

    We each are given the opportunity to look at, hear, read and reason somewhere between our heads and our emotions and make a decision....

    To each comment for Mike Huckabee and every other canidate seeking office, focus on your passions so we can exercise our FREEDOM to choose leadership by a majority.

    December 18, 2007 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  21. Bob Jackson Ringgold, GA

    You can tell by the posts who got screwed by Santa cause they didn't get squat under the tree at some point in their young life. You guys sleigh pun. It's Christmas...if you don't want to participate nobody cares.

    December 18, 2007 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  22. Michelle D. - Atlanta, GA

    Great. Now we can't even have bookshelves on display anymore?

    If there's a candleabra in the shot, then maybe peole will think it's a menorah.

    No, wait, let's have a star in there so people will think it's a pentogram.

    Grow up people.

    December 18, 2007 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  23. myohmyohinohio

    Good ad, Mike! You just secured my vote. If people don't like the fact that you have beliefs, they can emigrate back to wherever and not be missed. This IS a Christian country founded on Christian ideals.

    December 18, 2007 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  24. Roger, San Francisco, CA

    It's depressing to read all the vitriolic diatribes from people posting here. Yikes, people. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ; deal with it. You may not believe that he is the Savior of the world–I do–but his birth is an historical fact (see Josephus).

    December 18, 2007 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  25. e. schmidt, debary, fl

    Excepting that he looks like he has a glass right eye, the bookshelf reflects the studio light, as does his collar.

    But what are those huge Christmas balls on the shelf that are dwarfing the tree?

    December 18, 2007 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
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