NEW YORK (BP) –- Mike Huckabee brushed off criticism of his view of women in a speech to Republicans, contending much of the controversy is based on comments taken out of context and inaccurately reported through the media.
The former Arkansas governor, who is no stranger to hot-button issues, raised some eyebrows for his speech during the Republican's annual winter meeting Jan. 23. His comments on the "war on women" and Obamacare's contraceptive mandate set off a flurry of reaction on websites and social media.
"If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it," Huckabee told Republicans. "Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be."
Some in the media vented their criticism of Huckabee's speech on Twitter. Huckabee shared some of the tweets on his weekend "Huckabee" Fox cable show Jan. 25. Among those he said were inaccurate, one CNN reporter tweeted, "At Rnc meeting @MikeHuckabee just said fed govt shouldn't help women who can't control their libido w birth control." Another at NBC tweeted, "Huckabee: Women 'helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them … birth control because they cannot control their libido.'"
Huckabee, a former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention when he was a pastor in the state, said, "Trouble is, what they tweeted was the exact opposite of what I said…. To their credit, after some of their colleagues pointed that out, they tried to issue corrections. But by then even White House press secretary Jay Carney was reacting to a completely phony story."
He added, "Here's a fact, it's impossible for women to be equal and then be characterized as helpless victims, dependent upon the government to survive.
"… The Republicans don't have a war on women but a war for women…. We want them to be treated with respect for the decisions they make, whether it's a decision to raise children or enter the workforce…. If the Democrats want to patronize women that's their business but the public deserves professional and accurate journalism, whether it's reported by men or women."
Shaaya Ellis, a junior studying political science at the University of Notre Dame, was a guest on the show. The campus newspaper columnist seemed to agree with Huckabee's message overall, but he suggested it could have been communicated better.
"Given how controversial that this topic is, I wouldn't have gone with the word 'libido,'" Huckabee said. "I would have said something more along the lines of women are more than what the Democrats make them out to be. Women are more than the choices they make. They're our mothers; they're our daughters; they're our aunts and nieces…. And everyone should seek to treat women with dignity, with respect and equality."
During his show's opening monologue, Huckabee took a moment to express his respect and admiration for the women in his life. He said they are examples of how other women don't need to rely on the government for handouts.
"I've got a very strong, well-educated wife," he said. "… I assure you she is not helpless. She's conquered cancer, raised kids, run disaster relief for the Red Cross. And she's built houses for people in poverty in Third World countries in her work with Habitat for Humanity…. My daughter and my daughter-in-law are also strong professional women who are anything but helpless.
"… There was a reason I appointed more women to executive positions than any governor in my state's history…," Huckabee said later in the show. "I believe they can do the job and do it well."
Huckabee also made headlines in December for coming to the defense of Phil Robertson, the "Duck Dynasty" television show patriarch who drew a heavy amount of support and criticism for his stand on traditional marriage.
Huckabee, who ran for president in 2008, has said he may consider another run at the White house in 2016 but won't make any political announcements until after the midterm elections. He said his concern for the nation's direction could be the deciding factor.
"I just feel like our country is in an extraordinary world of hurt right now," Huckabee told Baptist Press during a Jan. 15 phone interview.
"I always remind Christians [that] Jesus said we're the salt of the earth and the light of the world," he said. "He never said the putrefaction process of culture was the fault of the secularists; it's the fault of the salt that ceases to be salt.
"If there is darkness and confusion and people stumbling around," he added, "it's not the fault of the people who are the spirits of darkness. It's the fault of the people who keep their lights off."
Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press. See related story
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