It’s been less than a week since U.S. News & World Report first let us know that recently departed Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was singling out Beyoncé, of all people, for criticism as he explores an outsider-ish 2016 presidential run as the socially conservative alternative to the rest of the GOP field.
And now, as The Root’s Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele reports, he’s already back, telling People magazine that he “can’t understand” how President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama can be such “doting” and “careful” parents, “and yet they don’t see anything that might not be suitable for either a preteen or a teen in some of the lyrical content and choreography of Beyoncé.”
Never mind that there’s probably a photo of the Obamas in the dictionary next to the definition of “picture-perfect, traditional nuclear family”—or that Huckabee really doesn’t have a clue about what parenting decisions they make for their daughters. Every time I read about him ripping Beyoncé, what I really want to ask him is this:
What is it, Governor, that bothers you so much about this particular American icon?
I mean, I get that any potential White House bid that you make is going to be grounded, at least in part, by appealing to good, old-fashioned, all-American family values—and that spicy lyrics and sexy dance moves seem like an easy place to start.
It’s peculiar, though, that on your way to scoring points in the never-ending culture wars, you’ve zeroed in on the oeuvre of married, maternal, always resplendent Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. After all, at this stage of the game, she’s as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
She’s not beyond criticism, of course. And Huckabee might even be surprised to know that noted black feminist bell hooks beat him to the punch last year, dubbing Bey a “terrorist” for her pose on the cover of Time.
But a guy with a book titled God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy—a paean to the heartland—might consider that a bona fide Southern belle like Beyoncé, who once starred in a film called The Fighting Temptations, might know a thing or two about what he’s selling. You don’t become the one-woman Beatles and modern-day Diana Ross—all rolled into one—without knowing a thing or two about the American character. And she knows we’re not a nation rooted in puritanism. (You know, not anymore.)
Yes, some of her performances are a tad steamy—I wouldn’t take a kindergarten class on a field trip to a Beyoncé concert. But by most accounts, many of her musical themes are empowering. And as regards Malia and Sasha, they’re growing up. By all accounts they’re typical, well-adjusted young ladies—not the little kids we remember from Inauguration Day 2009.
So if Huckabee is intent on leveraging the racier portions of Beyoncé’s repertoire for political gain, it seems only reasonable that he give equal due to her more reserved but exceptionally patriotic moments, like her elegant rendition of our national anthem at Super Bowl XXXVIII, or her rousing version of the same at the 2006 NBA All-Star Game with Destiny’s Child—what’s more Grits and Gravy than that? And what could be a lovelier tribute to all-American family values than this:
See, if you’ve got it in for Beyoncé, you may as well also have it in for Dolly Parton or Rita Moreno, because she’s that woven into our cultural DNA. And if it really is about values, not politics, Huckabee might heed the Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg, who took down Huckabee’s weird assertion that Bey’s dance moves translate to her husband Jay Z’s “crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife as a sex object,” as if she has no agency of her own.
As Rosenberg notes, in addition to the race and gender overtones in his comments, “If Huckabee truly believes that marriage has a branding problem, he would be wise to pause before slamming two of the institution’s most high-profile ambassadors.”
That pretty much settles it, if you ask me.
But it’s a free country. So if Huckabee sincerely has an issue with Queen Bey, by all means, he should speak his mind. It’s just that when you’re a candidate who’s asking Americans to choose you as their next leader, taking shots at an American institution seems like a strange place to start.
David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.