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. M. Martin, Dana Point, Ca

    Omg......I think I saw the Anti-Christ in his left cheek! Not..I guess the liberals, Atheist's and lunatic separation of Church and state fiends are out on the prowl tonight. This is such a non story. that shelf white? He must be a white supremacist........OMG.......there are no Gay, Lesbian, Jews, Christians, Hispanics, Asians, African American,s Armenians, Russians, Czecks, Germans and others behind him. What will we do?

    December 18, 2007 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  2. Zep, Seattle

    We Christians know 12/25/2007 is not the "birthday" of Christ Jesus. However at this time of the year we remember his birth, and celebrate God's Gift to us all. Feliz Navidad!

    December 18, 2007 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  3. Jay, Greeley, CO

    You've got to be kidding me! To say that the 'symbolic' cross was unintentional is laughable. No matter how you feel on the issue, one thing is for certain... this is a political ad. These ads are scrutinized up and down, back and forth before they are ever released. Don't be fooled or naive!

    December 18, 2007 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  4. Ron, Tampa Bay

    I was the recording engineer on hundreds of sessions for political ads. Every single detail was always strategic and even the "ad lib" ads analyzed from every angle. I am disappointed that Huckabee seems to believe am a FOOL or just plan ignorant!

    December 18, 2007 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  5. CAPTAIN AMERICA, Roanoke, Virginia, USA

    The tyranny of the minority, oh how I love thee.

    It really is amazing that saying "Merry Christmas" is such a horrible and vile thing to some people. It's also vile that at Christmas-time people give to charity, provide meals to the homeless, etc.

    Let's just get rid of Christmas so all of these evil people will stop wishing for goodwill among men and peace on earth.

    Then we can all be happy that the homeless starve, children don't get the joy of opening a present on Christmas morning, and people go without proper clothes in the dead of winter.

    Christmas, such an evil holiday.

    December 18, 2007 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  6. Dick Snyder, Bakersield, CA

    Mr. Huckabee presents us with what the current campaign has hungered for; a pointed insight for every posture. He is a candidate capable of skewering intellectual nabobs of negativism (where have I heard that before?)while maintaining the dignity and humorous thoughtfulness that lends perspective to all issues, great and small. I think I am going to follow him closely.

    December 18, 2007 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  7. Derek Larson, Saint Cloud, MN

    Remember Mike, Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season.

    Whatever religious values these candidates with to espouse are fine with me– but I will not vote for anyone that would even consider using the term "we" aligned with "Christian" when referring to Americans in general. Read the Constitution Mike! If your religion is so weak that it requires the force of government to prop it up you have a much bigger problem than a few people who are tired of hearing "Merry Christmas" from politicians who claim to represent all Americans.

    December 18, 2007 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  8. Michael wall, NJ

    The real issue is that a Post By Ian, Eastham MA : December 18, 2007 4:37 pm
    doesn´t get the Beatles Reference.
    NO sick sense of humor just a reference to a late 60´s pop culture urban legendof Paul Mc Cartney and he being dead and replace by Billy Shears.

    I think you if you look real close you may see a cross on on the side of the burning car as it goes off a cliff on the Sgt pepper album cover.
    AS for the cross is it subliminal?
    one must understand the meaning of subliminal.
    as per Merriam-Webster
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: sub- + Latin limin-, limen threshold
    Date: 1886
    1 : inadequate to produce a sensation or a perception
    2 : existing or functioning below the threshold of consciousness <subliminal advertising

    1)Since all this commentary exists I would say quite the conrtary, the cross members of the presumed book case ( opps did I say cross) were indeed adequate to provide a senstation and or preception.
    2)I Don´t belive that the white cross members just offset from the focal point of Mr Huckabee functioned below ones level of conciousness, if it did then go buy a sgt peppers album.
    OK There is a major cross behind Huckabee but what´s the concern about a vertical upright with a transverse beam at the mid point. If the point of intersection of the up right and transverse beam were at a 2/3rds point above mid center then I think I´d say we got a cross or crucifix instead of a plan ol in your face plus sign.
    peace out last of the baby boomers 63
    get real people.

    December 18, 2007 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  9. Russ Clunan

    Last time we at Perkins School of Theology checked Christmas was just that – Christmas. "Inclusive" sounds like another PC word for give me the time off (and maybe some gifts – and by the way how about an "inclusive" bonus. If Christmas is now what you celebrate then go to work that day.

    December 18, 2007 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  10. John Allen Boston, MA


    December 18, 2007 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  11. Ian, Eastham MA

    > I'm guessing that you are either in your 20s or 30s

    Guilty, I'm 31. A little before my time and I never got into or liked the Beatles...I know, I know...I'm sorry. Just not my thing.

    December 18, 2007 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  12. Scott Brown Palm Bay Florida

    If this ad offends you to bad. This is a wake up call to all Christians. I for one am not ashamed of the gospel and am tired of the secular society telling us God has no place in public life or politics. This nation was founded on Godly principles and it drives liberals insane. If this ad offends you-you are missing something in your life that will never be filled by anything else. Jesus is the reason for the season!

    December 18, 2007 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  13. Marven, Colton CA

    Christmas is not originally about Christ at all, so no need for him to defend it. Anyone who has done any mild research knows that Christmas was long a pagan holiday until Christianity rose and wanted to convert the pagans. And what better way than to tell them to keep doing what they do already, just rename everything? I bet there was quite a fuss the first time someone said "merry Christmas" instead of the traditional festival greeting.

    December 18, 2007 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  14. Kansas City, MO

    Come on people, Christmas is what "we" celebrate. Dec 25th is a recognized National Holiday. It is Merry Christmas not Happy Holiday.

    December 18, 2007 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  15. joey New York New York

    what and idiot...

    December 18, 2007 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  16. Chris, Houston,TX

    Wow! I don't understand the mainstream media today....Lets talk about a "subliminal message" (window frame), instead of giving any kind of attention to Ron Paul.

    RON PAUL 08!

    December 18, 2007 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  17. Rachel, Lincoln, NE/Storm Lake, IA

    Who cares about the supposed "subliminal message" with the cross? What's more important is that conservatives such as Huckabee think that, regardless of the fact that separation of Church and state is clearly discussed in the constitution, voters should still make decisions based on religion. In the ad Huckabee flat out states that the important thing right now is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, not political ads. He didn't need the subliminal message to be offensive, and for anyone interested in actual politics and the future of this country, the ad is clearly irrelevant.

    December 18, 2007 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  18. D Scherer Delray Beach, FL

    I am so tired of everyone sayiny that we can't say Merry Christmas, when it is ok to say happy Hannukah, happy Quanza etc. If they dont want to say Merry Chrismas, then let's all stop saying Happy Hannukah and Happy Quanza and the like. So, I guess it's Ok to be Jewish or African American, but not to be a Christian...well, Merry Chritmas to each and every one of them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 18, 2007 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |

    -Sorry for centuries it's been the begining of the Winter Solstace that we celebrate. Romans celebrated the God Saturn on this day. There's very little truly Christian about your so-called "Christ-mass" The tree is Pagan, as well as the yule log. The exchanging of presents was from the Roman Saturadia. Celebrating Winter Solstace goes back to the Egyptians, long before your Jesus was thought of. And for almost two centuries after the so called life of Jesus, No christians celebrated X-mas.

    It's only been in the last 100 yrs that Christmas has been celebrated by Christians. Remember that on "The Day of Saturn",while you sit next to the Pagan Tree, under your Druid Misiltoe.

    The Reason for the Season ISN'T Jesus.

    Sorry This season was already taken, enjoy it if you wish – but remember your place.
    Posted By Dave, Kansas KS : December 18, 2007 6:41 pm


    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 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  20. Daniel, New York, New York

    As someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas, I feel it would have been nicer if he wished everyone "happy holidays" so that certain groups of people wouldn't feel left out.

    I'm not offended, though, because I wouldn't expect someone from Arkansas to know much about other religions as not many other religions exist in that area.

    December 18, 2007 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  21. E. C., Houston, Texas

    AGREED.......this is 'CNN Trivia Pursuit'...CNN needs to concentrate on the REAL story, like: Huckabee is going to drop like a rock...and soon! His comments have made him less and less attractive as a candidate. He's cocky and full of 'cheap shots'...not smart.

    December 18, 2007 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  22. curt Jackson, TN

    He couldn't win in this situation. He would have been branded a hypocrite if he had said "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

    Originally I didn't think he was an electable candidate but I may need to rethink that.

    December 18, 2007 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  23. Anne - Detroit, Mi.

    Ian in Eastham:

    The Beatles' Abbey Road, when played backwards on a turntable, supposedly came out "Paul is dead". That was an "urban legend" and also started up a rumour that Paul McCartney had indeed died.

    December 19, 2007 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  24. Chris, Belleville Illinois

    the antiChrists on the left are so blind ignorant to the fact that their emotional immaturity gives the Republicans all they need to win again.

    December 19, 2007 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  25. Mark Dixon Rowley

    I just thought I would get a message out to Mr Huckabee, from the solution provider for the divine Mother Meera:

    MADONNA!!!!!!!!!! Butcher Tammuz Lesbos? Not again?!?

    Love, HoneyBunny

    Posted by NEWSSTAND GUY | December 18, 2007 8:59 PM

    Comment (25)

    I'm not saying I'm against the guy, but he's got some major sucking up to do.

    December 19, 2007 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
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