Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee stepped down from the board of the County Music Association Foundation this week following criticism of his anti-LGBTQ views.
The charitable foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation and education of country music, announced Huckabee’s appointment on Wednesday to widespread backlash within the industry. Major players in the Nashville music industryfrom managers and producers to musiciansthreatened to boycott the organization over his selection.
Monument Records Co-President Jason Owen, who is openly gay, called it a “grossly offensive decision.”
“Huckabee speaks of the sort of things that would suggest my family is morally beneath his and uses language that has a profoundly negative impact upon young people all across this country,” said Owen, who has a child with his husband. “Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice.”
Also owner of Sandbox Entertainment, Owen pledged his musicians would no longer support the CMA Foundation if he continues to sit on the board. He represents artists like Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, and Faith Hill.
Manager Whitney Pastorek, who represents singer Kristian Bush of the pop-country group Sugarland, called it a “terrible disappointment.”
“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,” Pastorek claimed in an email to the organization, as The Tennessean originally reported. “I find his choice to spend the past ten years profiting off messages of exclusion and hatrednot to mention the gun lobbyto be disqualifying.”
Huckabee, who has unsuccessfully run for president twice, has mounted his political career on opposing equality for LGBTQ people.
The one-time Fox News host has called homosexuality “aberrant, unnatural, and sinful” and opposed allowing same-sex couples to adopt, arguing that “children are not puppies.” On the issue of allowing transgender people to serve openly in the armed forces, Huckabee said the military “is not a social experiment.”
The Republican announced he was stepping down from the CMA Foundation on Thursday, just 24 hours after his appointment was announced. In a statement called “Hate Wins,” Huckabee referred to his critics as “bullies.”
“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,” he said, adding that it’s liberals who are the intolerant ones: “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.”
Chely Wright, one of the few openly lesbian singers in country music, claimed in a statement she was “heartened by the changes that are happening in Nashville and in our country music community at large when it comes to people speaking out in support of the LGBTQ community.”
But Wright, who dismissed Huckabee’s response as a “cunning” attempt to win political points, called for further accountability from the CMA Foundation.
“Who, on the CMA Foundation Board, voted to put Mike Huckabee in that board position in the first place?” she said in a response posted to Facebook. “If Nashville and the CMA truly want to be recognized for their growth in the area of LGBTQ equality this question must be answered and addressed.”
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