HATCH FIELDS, ARKANSAS — Rev. Mike Huckabee (R), the former Arkansas governor and Fox News pundit who is now a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, is no stranger to wading into the culture wars. In fact, most Hill insiders will point out the main thrust of Huckabee’s rhetoric has been primarily focused on social issues — gay marriage and abortion most notably — and not much else. This week, video surfaced from February of Huckabee addressing a conservative convention wherein the evangelical Christian joked about transgender issues. “Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE,” Huckabee told the audience. He went to say that he was “pretty sure that [he] would have found [his] feminine side” and said to his coach, “Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.'”
The meaning of the joke of course is to imply that if states start allowing transgender people to use the restrooms that are designated for their gender identity, sexual predators and deviants will gain access to bathrooms under the guise of being transgender, and can sexually assault and molest innocent victims. The joke comes into especially sharp focus because this was the week that Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner revealed to the world her post transgender transformation identity of Caitlyn. Despite the fact that there has been no evidence from any state where transgender people have restroom access protections seeing an increase in assaults in those same bathrooms, when confronted about his joke in February at a campaign rally held in Hatch Fields, Arkansas, Huckabee doubled-down on his rhetoric, but also attempted to offer a reason for his asynchronous rhetoric.
“First of all,” Huckabee told his audience, “I just want to say that just like climate change, I do not accept what so-called scientists tell me when it flies in the face of what’s in my centuries-old religious text that has been re-translated dozens of times to fit whatever moral agenda of those who think like I do at the time were trying to implement. But, even if I did accept what mountains of peer-reviewed data says about gender identity, the truth is I’d still say those things because I am an insensitive asshole who makes jokes about things I am afraid of.”
Huckabee would later clarify that he “isn’t afraid of getting in a fight with a man who used to be a chick or something gross like that” but that he’s “intimidated by someone with a different definition of normal, or someone who doesn’t care what normal even means in the first place.” He said he “gets troubled that the natural order of things — that white, evangelical Christian, conservative men get to run things and make the rules” will be challenged if “people get to just live their lives in ways that ultimately make them happy and more comfortable in their bodies.”
“Why these people can’t just pray to God to ask His heavenly help in accepting they have a dong or a hoo-hoo-dilly is beyond me,” Huckabee said, “but when I am president I will sign as an executive order a presidential decree that will forbid states from treating Americans like human beings just because they think they deserve it.” The former Fox News host host defended his “sacred, God given duty to insult and abuse those who have little or no voice” on the grounds that “Jimmy Madison wrote that First Amendment’s promise of religious protection no matter how fucking kooky I sound.”
Rick Santorum, another 2016 Republican presidential hopeful who will also be vying for the votes of the religious conservatives in his party’s base, was asked for comment on Huckabee’s joke. “Well, I think that’s just too bad,” Santorum said. “Huck could’ve really explored the material and blown that joke out huge. He could’ve done some acting out, and even some light crowd-work maybe to keep them into the bit. But I commend him for committing to it, and I think his career as a closed-minded, bigoted stand-up comedian on the Asshole Circuit — it hits the Bible belt mostly — has got quite a bit of legs in it.”
“I will not apologize for defending traditional American values,” Huckabee said to the crowd that day. “The traditional value of using religion as a cudgel to just bash the brains in of people who literally have done nothing wrong and are only wanting to live their lives with the same abject freedom I do. The traditional value of disrespecting someone entirely based only on a small part of who they are. The traditional value of thinking my own, small and shall interpretation of normal is the correct one. Things like that. God bless me, God bless my campaign, and God bless you for voting for me.”