Learn Our History, the company that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee co-founded in 2011 “to make it fun for kids to learn American history,” has spent the past week funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into Facebook ads promoting a “no-risk” deal. The two-time presidential candidate’s firm said it’s giving away its educational booklets — such as “The Kids Guide to President Trump” — for free, or just $1 per item, in a “patriotic bundle” special.
“The mainstream media doesn’t want your children to know the truth about President Trump and his achievements in office,” declared the recent ads for “The Kids Guide,” a new offshoot of Learn Our History that has also ramped up its Facebook spending to push the promotion. “That’s why Mike Huckabee’s team created ‘The Kids Guide to President Trump,’ and that’s why we’re making it free.”
But the offer is far from free. Parents across the country described a bait-and-switch scheme that they said duped them into signing up for $20-per-month subscriptions without their knowledge. Many said that Learn Our History ignored their repeated requests to cancel the subscriptions, leaving them locked into payments for products that they never wanted in the first place — all so their children can learn Huckabee’s version of history, which critics described as “pretend,” “kiddie propaganda” and “full of Christian nationalist revisionism and right-wing political propaganda.”
This isn’t the first time that Huckabee has cashed in on apparent scams. The former Fox News host has spent much of his post-gubernatorial life shilling for grifters, including the sellers of a $74 biblical cancer cure and a diabetes “reversal” treatment containing a “secret ingredient”: cinnamon. (“Let me tell you that diabetes can be reversed. I should know because I did it — and today you can, too!” he said in a 2015 infomercial before railing against prescription drugs, Big Pharma and the “mainstream medical community.”)
Rather than targeting the medically desperate and vulnerable, Huckabee’s history for kids company, an EverBright Media brand, has been pandering to parents with children who are “stuck at home” and bored during the coronavirus pandemic. And with its recent Facebook ad splurge, Learn Our History has succeeded in drawing in new customers — along with a wave of complaints from those who said they were shocked to discover additional charges on their credit card bills.
“I have tried numerous times to cancel a ‘subscription’ to this, ... but no one responds to my emails or messages. I was not aware I had subscribed to anything, and I keep getting billed $20.90 a month for something I do not use or want. Buyer beware,” one woman posted to the ‘Kids Guide’ Facebook page. “Do not debit any more from my account,” another pleaded. “I sent a message, but no one responded.”
It’s no surprise that one buyer after another seeking Learn Our History’s free advertised materials is unwittingly purchasing monthly subscriptions. At the checkout page for the bundle deal, the order total is listed as $2, and the offer’s terms and conditions are presented like this:
The non-scrollable text conveniently cuts off right before telling customers that they will automatically receive a subscription to Learn Our History’s “Kids Guides” that come “around once a month for the low price of $15.95 plus $4.95 [shipping and processing] per set, billed conveniently to your credit or debit card on file,” as well as an additional subscription to EverBright Kids magazine for an extra $5.75. All of that information is hidden from customers unless they notice and click on the small gray text in the gray box leading to the complete terms and conditions.
Many people have reported that once they signed up for subscriptions through Huckabee’s company — whether they wanted them or not — they were unable to cancel the subscriptions.
Susanne Rosenhouse, a mother of two in Dallas, ordered “The Kids Guide to the Coronavirus” after seeing it in a Facebook ad. Unaware of the partisan nature of Learn Our History’s products, she figured it would be useful for her 8-year-old daughter.
“I thought to myself, ‘For a dollar, that sounds worth it,’” Rosenhouse told HuffPost.
The order took longer than expected to arrive, so she emailed Learn Our History’s customer service team requesting an update and immediately received a response that her package was on its way. But later — once she noticed the additional charges — she said she emailed the same team to cancel her subscription and never heard back.
“All of a sudden, there was no response,” she said.
Addressing complaints filed through the Better Business Bureau’s website, EverBright Media argued that complainants “affirmatively agreed to the terms and conditions of our offer (by checking the box that [they] had read and agreed to our terms).” It failed to acknowledge that the terms and conditions are cut off in the preview box.
“We are a subscription education company, and across our various websites, ... we explain how our subscription offers work to our customers,” an EverBright Media representative told HuffPost in an emailed statement. “We also provide them with our terms during the checkout process, even requiring each customer to check a box acknowledging that they have reviewed our terms and conditions before we will process their order.”
The representative added that customers receive an email confirming the terms after placing an order, are entitled to a refund within 90 days of their purchase and can cancel their subscriptions at any time. The company’s response time for such requests has been affected by the coronavirus, he said.
Other Huckabee-affiliated firms have deployed similar tactics to quietly hit customers with additional fees. After ordering a booklet from Barton Publishing that Huckabee advertised for $19.97, New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel reported that he “found a $120.08 charge to his Visa card, which included a $67 coaching video that was not ordered.”
Huckabee did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Learn Our History said on its website that it offers children “positive, patriotic and unbiased” history lessons free from the prejudice “found in many textbooks in use today.” But along with its pro-Trump religious slant, it has also been accused of attempting to capitalize on crises.
Ahead of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, the company released a cartoon film about the attacks, which blamed “Muslim terrorists” and depicted men dressed in traditional Islamic attire wielding AK-47s and screaming, “Death to the Americans!” with heavy accents.
And in June, as Black Lives Matter protests erupted nationwide following the police killing of George Floyd, Learn Our History started aggressively running Facebook ads for its “Civil Rights Bundle for Kids,” which included a DVD about America’s “founders and fighters” and encouraged children to “take pride in America’s past.”
The ads showed a young, grinning Black boy giving two thumbs up beneath the text, “In times like these, it’s critical for your children to understand the fight for equality. That’s why we want your family to enjoy this important civil rights bundle from Learn Our History for free while supplies last!”
Of course, like the booklet bundles, the terms are cut off — and the deal isn’t free.