It's been a whirlwind week for former Arkansas Governor Mick Huckabee, whose appointment to the CMA Foundation's board of directors was met with immediate criticism from several country-music industry professionals, due to his stance toward the LGBTQ community and his "deep involvement" with the NRA. Huckabee resigned from the board Thursday, less than one day after the appointment was announced, writing in his resignation letter: "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."
Singer Chely Wright, an out lesbian who had been contacted for comment on the controversial appointment, weighed in instead with a lengthy open letter on Facebook, directly addressing several points in the staunchly conservative pundit's resignation letter. A lifetime CMA member since 1992, Wright founded
"Mr. Huckabee, I read your letter in which you address the tendering of your resignation from the CMA Foundation Board. Well-written piece, Sir…," Wright wrote. "Your letter is a predictable attempt to convince folks that this is a binary choice; the battle between (your side) people of faith who care about providing schoolchildren with musical instruments and (the lefty liberals' side) affirming LGBTQ people. You're sneaky, Mike, but we've seen your colors before.
"Mike, everyone cares about music in schools," she contined. "We all do. Stop trying to pretend that it’s not important to all of us or that you’re the only one who can bring this idea to the table. The CMA Foundation will continue this important part of their mission without you, I assure you. And stop using students and country music fans as pawns to validate your bigotry toward LGBTQ people and our incredible straight allies. Pitting people of faith against the equality movement is a fool's errand."
Those who publicly criticized Huckabee's appointment almost immediately included Monument Records co-president and artist manager Jason Owen, whose clients include multiple CMA-award-winning artists Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town and Faith Hill. Owen and his husband are the parents of a young son and also expecting twins. In an email to CMA CEO Sarah Trahern and CMA Foundation executive Tiffany Kerns, he called the appointment of Huckabee a "grossly offensive decision," telling the CMA neither his companies nor anyone they represent would continue to support the foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Country Music Association.
"I'm proud of my old pal Jason Owen – an openly gay man – who has the industry clout and wherewithal to bridle the collective star-power of his artist roster in support of his call for Mr. Huckabee to step down from his board position," Wright added. "That's not nothin', y'all."
Wright closed her letter addressing the CMA Foundation board, asking which members voted to add him to the 12-member body, noting, "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."