Mike Huckabee resigned Thursday from the board of the Country Music Association Foundation after artists, fans and a number of industry honchos spoke out against the former Republican presidential hopeful’s appointment.
“If the industry doesn’t want people of faith or who hold conservative and traditional political views to buy tickets and music, they should be forthcoming and say it,” Huckabee wrote in his resignation letter, which came just one day after he was announced as the CMA Foundation’s newest member. “Until recently, the arts was the one place America could set aside political, geographical, racial, religious, and economic barriers and come together ... At the end of the day, I’m not worth the fight, but the kids are.” The letter was published in Nashville’s The Tennessean.
Although CMA Foundation Chairman Joe Galante had touted Huckabee’s “policy experience with education reform” when announcing the former Arkansas governor’s appointment to the board Wednesday, the news immediately set off a firestorm of criticism. A number of music industry officials, including Jason Owen of Monument Records and Sandbox Management, pointed to Huckabee’s opposition to LGBTQ rights when expressing their dissent.
“Huckabee speaks of the sort of things that would suggest my family is morally beneath his and uses language that has a profoundly negative impact upon young people all across this country,” wrote the openly gay executive, whose Sandbox roster includes Faith Hill and Little Big Town. “What a shameful choice.”
Another industry veteran, who asked not to be identified, felt similarly. “I couldn’t help but see him standing with his arms locked in the air with that Kim Davis woman in Kentucky,” the source told Variety, referring to the county clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses in 2015. “That is not a favorable memory in my mind.”
Huckabee appeared to address those criticisms in his Thursday letter.
“All of us have deep passions about our beliefs. I do about mine,” he wrote. “But I hate no one.”
Among those to respond favorably to Huckabee’s resignation was Chely Wright, who came out as a lesbian in 2010. On Friday, the singer-songwriter posted an open letter to Huckabee to her Facebook and Twitter accounts, telling him to “stop using students and country music fans as pawns to validate your bigotry toward LGBTQ people and our incredible straight allies.”
“Pitting people of faith against the equality movement is a fool’s errand,” Wright wrote. She went on to note that she was “heartened by the changes that are happening in Nashville and in our country music community at large when it comes to people speaking out in support of the LGBTQ community.”
Huckabee, a Republican candidate for the 2008 and 2016 presidential races, has been a staunch opponent of marriage equality and other LGBTQ rights for some time. In 2015, he urged his supporters to “resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat,” when it came to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.