Mike Huckabee gets misquoted
Kasie Hunt of NBC News delivered the amazing news on twitter: former Arkansas governor and possible presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told members of the Republican National Committee that women were “helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them with birth control, because they cannot control their libido.”
Huckabee: Women “helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them … birth control because they cannot control their libido”
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) January 23, 2014
Twitter caught fire. Huckabee was boiled in virtual oil. News organizations prepared instant analysis pieces about how Huckabee represented deeper “War on Women” problems within the Republican Party, they’d better start dealing with their misogyny pronto, and no, they can’t just deal with it by telling Huck to get lost.
There’s just one problem… none of that was true. Huckabee said very nearly the opposite of what he was quoted as saying. The point he was trying to make is that Democrats see women that way, and design Big Government policies accordingly. Here is the entire passage from his speech:
I think it’s time for Republicans to no longer accept listening to Democrats talk about a ‘War on Women.’ Because the fact is, the Republicans dont’ have a war on women. They have a war for women – for them to be empowered, to be something other than victims of their gender.
Women I know are outraged that Democrats think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have a government provide for their birth control medication. Women I know are smart, educated, intelligent, capable of doing anything anyone else can do.
Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That’s not a war on them, it’s a war for them. And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government, then so be it. Let’s take that discussion all across America, because women are far more than Democrats have made them to be. And women across America have to stand up and say, ‘Enough of that nonsense.’”
So the instant online firestorm is based on misquoting what Huckabee said he thinks Democrats think – or, I suppose more precisely, what he thinks Democrats want women to think about themselves – and making it seem as if they are Huckabee’s own personal troglodyte beliefs. But on the contrary, the entire passage is his firm statement that he thinks women are “smart, educated, intelligent, and capable,” and he’s advising the Republican Party – an important organ of which he was addressing – to treat them as such.
Among those news organizations carrying video of what Huckabee actually said is… NBC News.
If you’re looking for a charitable explanation of how an NBC reporter would repackage this quote to completely invert its meaning, prepare for a bit of head-scratching. She forgot to include the words “Democrats believe” after Huckabee’s name and the colon?
It looks like many other members of the media couldn’t be bothered to do a bit of research and get the “context” they’re always claiming to be sovereign judges of. That’s odd, because you would think the first thing a journalist was trained to do, upon encountering a bizarrely offensive sentence plucked from a prepared speech, would be to look up the surrounding paragraph and make sure the remark was properly understood. You can make anyone look horrible by grabbing a dozen random words out of a half-hour speech.
Criticizing what Huckabee actually said, or anything else he ever actually said or did, is fine. Chopping out words like slices of salami to distort his meaning is not. As for what he did say, it’s rich to hear Democrats – the masters of demonization, personal destruction, and psycho-analyzing their opponents to find the hidden racism, greed, and cruelty that “really” motivate them – to complain that he’s being unkind in his characterization. Remember, this is the party that was, almost in unison, hollering that Mitt Romney talking about receiving a binder full of women’s resumes was a window into his callous patriarchal soul. And if you think the charge Huckabee leveled against Democrats is grossly unfair…