Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee resigned from his position on the Country Music Association Foundation board yesterday after publicly holding the position for only one. The appointment of the former Republican governor was announced on Wednesday along with country music star Chris Young. Unlike Young though, Huckabee’s position on the Board of Directors for the Country Music Associations charitable arm was immediately met with backlash from music executives.
In a lengthy post on his website titled “Hate Wins,” Huckabee resigned saying “It appears that I will make history as having the shortest tenure in the history of the CMA Foundation Board. I genuinely regret that some in the industry were so outraged by my appointment that they bullied the CMA and the Foundation with economic threats and vowed to withhold support for the programs for students if I remained.”
The resignation letter continued “The message here is ‘Hate Wins.’ Bullies succeeded in making it untenable to have ‘someone like me’ involved. I would imagine however that many of the people who buy tickets and music are not that ‘unlike me,'” and added “I hope this will end the unnecessary distraction and deterrent to the core mission of the Foundation which is to help kids acquire musical instruments and have an opportunity to participate in music programs as students.”
Huckabee’s resignation comes after Sandbox Entertainment’s Jason Owen was swift to send a letter to the CMA Foundation voicing his strong disapproval of their appointment of Huckabee to the Board of Directors. Owen informed the foundation that he and the artists associated with him would be withdrawing their support for the organization. Owen, who is also co-president of Monument Records, works with Faith Hill, Little Big Town, Kacey Musgraves, Midland, and Shania Twain.
The letter was sent to CMA CEO Sarah Trahern, and to CMA Foundation Director of Community Outreach Tiffany Kerns, where Owen wrote “I will not participate in any organization that elevates people like this to positions that amplify their sick voices. This was a detrimentally poor choice by the CMA and its leaders.”
Owen, who is gay and in the letter explains that he has a child and “two on the way,” explains that the former governor of Arkansas has “has made it clear that my family is not welcome in his America.”
Huckabee, once a Republican presidential contender, has likened legalizing gay marriage to legalizing incest, polygamy, and drug use. He has also been vocally against same-sex parent adoptions, stating “children are not puppies.”
In the letter, obtained by MusicRow, Owen condemned Huckabee’s homophobic “language that has a profoundly negative impact upon young people all across this country. Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is,” adding that his appointment to the board was “a shameful choice.”
Whitney Pastorek, a CMA member and manager to Sugarland’s Kristian Bush visited Dodson Elementary School in Hermitage last week with the CMA Foundation, penned an open letter to CMA executives questioning Huckabee’s commitment to diversity and his close association with the NRA. Most recently, Huckabee called businesses shying away from the NRA after the Parkland school shooting “cowardly.”
Pastorek wrote “What a terrible disappointment to see (the CMA Foundation’s) mission clouded by the decision to align with someone who so frequently engages in the language of racism, sexism, and bigotry. While Gov. Huckabee’s tenure in Arkansas may have resulted in valuable education reform over a decade ago, I find his choice to spend the past ten years profiting off messages of exclusion and hatred (not to mention the gun lobby) to be disqualifying.”
The CMA Foundation followed the criticism by announcing Huckabee’s resignation yesterday with CMA CEO Trahern stating in a letter “His nomination to the Foundation Board was made with the purest intention given his experience with music education reform policy over the course of a decade. As you know, both the CMA Board and the Foundation Board are comprised of representatives with a wide array of experience and a breadth of varying viewpoints.”
Trahern continued “He’s provided relevant insights from his time of service having led statewide music education mandates and grant structuring. He is also a musician. As you all know, CMA does not work with any of its Board members based on their personal or political affiliations. The reason he was appointed was very mission-centric.”
This is the second time in recent history that the CMAs has recalibrated after seemingly political moves. Days before the CMA Awards in November, the organization insisted that reporters who brought up politics or gun control would be kicked off the red carpet. The awards ceremony came only weeks after the massacre at Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.
After backlash from the country music community including award show host Brad Paisley, CMA rescinded its policy, stating “The sentiment was not to infringe and was created with the best of intentions to honor and celebrate Country Music.”