UPDATE 2: Following a backlash from some members of the country music industry, conservative pundit and former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee has resigned from the CMA Foundation's board of directors. "The CMA Foundation has accepted former Governor Mike Huckabee's resignation from its Board of Directors, effective immediately," the CMA told Rolling Stone Country in a statement. Huckabee was announced as a new member of the board of the CMA's philanthropic organization on Wednesday night.
UPDATE: Manager and Monument Records label executive Jason Owen, whose Sandbox Entertainment manages such country heavyweights as Little Big Town, Kacey Musgraves and Faith Hill, has written a letter to the Country Music Association objecting to its election of Mike Huckabee to the board of the CMA Foundation. "It is with a heavy heart that I must let you know moving forward, Sandbox and Monument 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," Owen wrote.
"As you may know I have a child and two on the way," the manager, who is openly gay, wrote. "This man has made it clear that my family is not welcome in his America. And the CMA has opened their arms to him, making him feel welcome and relevant … This was a detrimentally poor choice by the CMA and its leaders."
The CMA Foundation, the Country Music Association's philanthropic organization, has announced the election of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee to its board of directors. Huckabee, a Republican political pundit and host on the Christian channel Trinity Broadcast Network, will serve on the 12-member board of the group, whose stated mission is in "improving and sustaining music education programs" across the country and ensuring "every child has the opportunity to participate in music education."
As a nonprofit, the CMA Foundation provides funds gleaned mainly from the annual CMA Fest to public school music programs. Huckabee, a bass player who has performed in a cover band called Capitol Offense, has been an outspoken champion of arts funding, especially music. Last March, he wrote a passionate op-ed for the Washington Post lobbying for the support of the National Endowment for the Arts.
"If it seems unusual that a conservative Republican would advocate for music and the arts, don't be so surprised. The largest increase in arts funding ever came under President Richard Nixon, and when budget hawks thought about cutting the minuscule funding of the NEA in the 1980s, it was no less than President Ronald Reagan who stepped in to make sure those in our poorest neighborhoods continued to have access to this road to academic success and meaningful way to express their creative gifts," he wrote.
But Huckabee has also expressed polarizing views when it comes to public education. The two-time presidential candidate suggested the abolishment of the Department of Education in 2015; questioned the teaching of Darwin's evolution theory ("If anybody wants to believe that they are the descendants of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it," he said in 2007 Republican presidential debate); and is a proponent of school choice, which allows students the choice, via taxpayer dollars, of where to attend school (which can include charter, religious and private, often through a voucher system). Critics argue that this approach harms public schools and increases segregation, as well as funds corporate interests.
Reps for the CMA and Huckabee did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Huckabee, the father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has also compared legalizing gay marriage to the legalization of incest, questioned if gay couples should be able to adopt, and rallied behind Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In recent months, he's become a controversial figure on Twitter, tweeting shortly after the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooting that the suspect was a "liberal atheist stopped by Christian NRA instructor." He also criticized "cowardly corporations" for pulling their support for the NRA after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
Jason Owen's Letter to CMA Execs Sarah Trahern and Tiffany Kerns Concerning Mike Huckabee
Sarah and Tiffany,
It is with a heavy heart that I must let you know moving forward, Sandbox and Monument 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. Further, we find it hard to support the organization as a whole as a result. As you may know I have a child and two on the way. This man has made it clear that my family is not welcome in his America. And the CMA has opened their arms to him, making him feel welcome and relevant. 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. Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice. 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 it’s 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.