Interview: Mike Huckabee on 'Bend Over' Comment Criticized as Prison Rape Joke, Charlie Hebdo Cartoons (Part 2)

Gov. Mike Huckabee, cover art for God, Guns Grits and Gravy, 2015.
Gov. Mike Huckabee, cover art for God, Guns Grits and Gravy, 2015. | (Photo: Ocken)

Mike Huckabee addressed criticism over writing, "bend over and take it like a prisoner," in a chapter on privacy in his new book, and talked about whether media organizations should publish Charlie Hebdo cartoons after the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine's headquarters.

Huckabee was formerly the governor of Arkansas and recently left his show on Fox News because he is considering running for president. His new book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, tackles a broad range of issues, including same-sex marriage, gun control, education, environmentalism, taxes and foreign policy.

In part one of the interview, he spoke about the need for Christians to uphold and model marriage as a lifetime commitment, and he addressed his statements about Beyoncé that have created the most buzz about the book.

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In part three, Huckabee answered questions about Common Core and running for president.

In another controversy about the book, Huckabee has been accused of using crude humor for one of his chapter titles, "Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner!" Huckabee suspects that his critics have not read the chapter. The title is not about prison rape, he said in this part two of the interview. The chapter is about privacy and the title is to suggest that going through airport security is similar to the search process that prisoners go through when they first enter the prison.

He also addressed questions about media reporting on the terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo headquarters. Some media outlets have chosen not to show the cartoons that inspired the attack because they are offensive to many Muslims. Huckabee answered that he understands why it would be a difficult decision for the media, but added that their motivation for not showing the cartoons should be considered, because no one has a right to not be offended.

Here is a transcript, edited for length and clarity, of part two of the interview:

CP: You critique the "culture of crude" in one chapter, but then you have another chapter where you've been criticized for using crude language. The chapter is called, "Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner!" which is a reference to airport security. Some have said that phrase is crude and it's making light of prison rape, a serious problem. In an article for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Andrew Walker wrote, "Huckabee's choice of language for this chapter is distasteful and morally repugnant. If that's the rhetoric that's supposed to play to his evangelical base, count this evangelical out." How would you respond to Walker?

Huckabee: I would wonder, has he read the chapter? My guess is he has not. It has nothing to do with prison rape. It is a reference really to the process by which we are allowed onto an airplane. Sure, it is a graphic term, but it has more to do with the intake of a person getting into prison, which I have witnessed as a governor, visiting all of our prison institutions during the time of my holding office. It had nothing to do with prison rape.

I also found it interesting that some people said that I was saying it's the same as. Barack Obama has often talked about Republicans holding a gun to his head during negotiations. Well, it's a metaphor. And when we use metaphors or use similes, we are not saying it is, we are saying it is like, to illustrate. I'm always amazed that people don't understand the difference between something that is intended to clearly to be literal and something that is to be metaphorical. That was metaphorical. Had nothing to do with prison rape.

I thought it was a pretty graphic, but not totally inappropriate, way to describe the process. And I would say, if people read the chapter, and see what that chapter title refers to, the point is, when we board airplanes these days, its as if we're being treated like we're under arrest and being taken into the system. You know, spread your legs, put up your hands, let me put my hand into the waistband of your pants, let me feel up your legs and into your groin. I mean, that's bending over and taking it like a prisoner, when you're checking into the prison.

CP: You're saying it's a reference to the search process that takes place in a prison.

Huckabee: Exactly. And anybody who reads the chapter would get that. People who only read the headline or something that was said about it might not [get it].

CP: You also write about the hypersensitivity we have to hurt feelings in our culture. That issue has come up recently with respect to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Charlie Hebdo cartoons have been described crude, repugnant and offensive. For that reason, some news organizations have chosen not to show them as they report on the attack. Given that you've both said that we have too much crudeness in our culture and we are too hypersensitive to hurt feelings, what do you think about the decision of some news organizations to not show the cartoons?

Huckabee: I think it's a decision that each outlet makes, but I find it interesting that, on the one hand, they say, "je suis Charlie," "we are Charlie," but then they say, "we're not going to show it."

To not show them because they think it's in poor taste, that's one thing, but to not show it because, "we don't want to offend the Muslims," well, free speech inherently offends somebody. That's part of the nature of truly free speech.

And, I get offended all the time. People say horrible things about me. If you Google my name and look at some of the comments, it's beyond insulting and degrading. Now, do I have a right to go and blow up their homes because of it? Of course not. Some of it may border on being libelous or slanderous, but because I'm a public figure there's probably not a lot I can do about even that.

But the bigger point of all that is just that, there's something to me that's strange when people act like they have a fundamental right to not be offended. Well, none of us have a right to not be offended. We can't just control everybody's speech and behavior so that it would never offend anyone. And, in fact, I think even some of the reaction to the book is because, I think, people pretend to be offended at things because it's like increasingly part of this culture that we have created, that we want to prove that we're more sensitive, that we're more thoughtful. It makes us colorless, bland, and sterile.

CP: It sounds like you appreciate that it would be a difficult choice for news organizations?

Huckabee: I appreciate the difficulty of it. I think the reason, to me, would be an important factor. If, on one hand, they say, "we really believe that nothing should keep us from printing the truth, we're not going to print it because it might be dangerous to us," well, then the terrorists have won because, what terrorism does is it gets us to change our behavior into doing something that we wouldn't ordinarily do, that's really the goal of terrorism.

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