Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has resigned his position on the Country Music Association Foundation board less than 24 hours after taking the post. Huckabee’s resignation comes after the politician received fierce criticism over his Christian views regarding LGBT issues.
Huckabee updated his Twitter shortly after the news broke:
Got home from 28 hour trip from Taipei that lasted longer than my time on CMA Foundation board. Read my FULL letter of resignation and see that "Hate Wins" and bullies care about themselves than kids needing music. https://t.co/uDzMD6NbFc
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 2, 2018
“Got home from 28 hour trip from Taipei that lasted longer than my time on CMA Foundation board,” he wrote. “Read my FULL letter of resignation and see that ‘Hate Wins’ and bullies care about themselves than kids needing music.”
“Basically, every gay man in town is furious,” one artist manager told Variety before the resignation was announced.
Following the confirmation of Huckabee’s role, famed Nashville-based manager Jason Owen wrote a letter to the CMA announcing that his artists would no longer work on Foundation efforts if the former Governor kept his position.
“It is with a heavy heart that I must let you know moving forward, Sandbox [Owen’s management firm] and Monument [Sandbox’s Sony-distributed label] will no longer support the CMA Foundation in any way (this includes everyone we represent collectively) considering the heartbreaking news shared today regarding Mike Huckabee appointee/elected to the CMA Foundation,” Owens wrote.
“I will not participate in any organization that elevates people like this to positions that amplify their sick voices,” Owen’s letter continued. “This was a detrimentally poor choice by the CMA and its leaders. I only wish the best for you and I know how hard you work for the foundation but a grossly offensive decision like this only makes your job harder and diminishes the foundation’s purpose.”
Huckabee was appalled at what he described as blatant “irrational vitriol,” and urged CMA to encourage a more open and inclusive community that chooses to accept differences in opinion.
“I hope that the music and entertainment industry will become more tolerant and inclusive and recognize that a true love for kids having access to the arts is more important than a dislike for someone or a group of people because of who they are or what they believe,” he wrote in his letter, published by the Tennessean.
Huckabee, a long-time supporter of musical education, explained why the CMA foundation is so close to his heart:
“Music changed my life. I grew up dirt poor in south Arkansas. No male upstream from me in my entire family ever even graduated from high school. I had no reason to believe that my life would consist of anything but scratching out a meager living and hoping to pay rent in a house I would never own just as generations before me had done,” he wrote.
“Music changed that,” the politician continued. “The gift of an electric guitar by my parents when I was 11 put in my hands a future. It took them a year to pay for the $99 guitar they bought from the J. C. Penney catalog. Granted, I was never good enough to make a full-time living at music, but the confidence I gained by playing, being in front of people, and competing against myself and the low expectations I grew up with was transformative.”
In many ways, Huckabee appeared to be a perfect fit for the role. On its website, the CMA Foundation states its core mission:
“The CMA Foundation focuses on improving and sustaining music education programs everywhere while supporting worthwhile causes important to the Country Music Association.”
As Huckabee pointed out in his letter, for two years he was chairman of the Education Commission of the States, composed of all 50 governors, education leaders in the Senate and House from all 50 state legislatures, and the state education chief for each of the 50 states.
He further explained his bewilderment at the outrage sparked by his new role.
“Now someone who has never met me threatens to wreck valuable programs of the CMA Foundation because of a personal contempt for my faith and politics,” he wrote. “I am willing to get out of the way for the sake of the students the Foundation will hopefully help.”
“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. Surely neither the artists or the business people of the industry want that.”
Now, argued Huckabee, is the time for music to bring people together, not tear them apart.
“Until recently, the arts was the one place America could set aside political, geographical, racial, religious, and economic barriers and come together,” he wrote. “If the arts community becomes part of the polarization instead of bridging communities and people over the power of civil norms as reflected in the arts, then we as a civilization may not be long for this earth.”
Producer Shane McAnally, however, is fine with not allowing Christian conservatives into the exclusive CMA circle.
“I am glad to hear that Mike Huckabee resigned from the CMA Foundation Board and I hope that this will prevent any further distractions from the work that the CMA Foundation does in our community,” he said in a statement to Variety.
“As a member of the CMA Board, I was disheartened to learn that Huckabee was appointed to the position because his beliefs have not been representative of our country music community as a whole, which is made up of dynamic and forward-thinking creatives. The CMA is an organization that acts as an ambassador for our industry, so it is incredibly important that we are diligent in spreading a message that embraces diversity and love. I hope that the CMA will continue to be governed by progressive and empathetic individuals in the future.”
Huckabee concluded his resignation letter by offering his “sincere thanks to the CMA Foundation for believing I had something to contribute,” while lamenting that his views “caused controversy” that resulted in “threats to vital support for deserving kids.”
“Kids wanting to learn music shouldn’t be the victims of adults who demand that only certain people can be in the room or be heard,” he wrote.