Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mike Huckabee Now Right, Somewhat

In June, former Arkansas governor and current GOP TV host Mike Huckabee, aghhast at the anti-Zionist remark of Helen Thomas (video below), remarked "Helen, I’ve got a suggestion: maybe it’s time for you to go home."

Huckabee could have limited his retort to the accurate "Helen, they are home. Read Genesis 15, Exodus 23, Numbers 34." But he didn't, perhaps because ignorance of geography and history is not a firing offense, and chose instead to issued a thinly-veiled (is there such a thing as "thickly-veiled"?) crack at Thomas's age- i.e., "time for you to go home."

Five months later, and Emma Mustich in Salon argues

Huckabee's rhetoric about free speech rings hypocritical in light of his reaction to White House reporter Helen Thomas' comments about Jews and Israel in June. After those comments, in which she said Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine," a huge media outcry -- with Huckabee one of the loudest voices -- prompted Thomas to resign.

Huckabee's current rhetoric does "ring hypocritical" because, well, it is hypocritical. Both Helen Thomas and Juan Williams made unjustified statements. one evincing little historical knowledge of the Middle East and the other of the likelihood that a terrorist would announce his/her presence by wearing traditional Muslim garb. But, arguably, neither remark was illegitimate (lacking in reasonableness) and Williams' fear is one probably held by a majority of Americans.

Nor was either remark unprovoked- Thomas was asked "any comments about Israel?"- and Williams offered his thoughts in the context of expressing a view about Muslims that, no doubt, was one more tolerant than Fox News viewers usually hear. They were both within their rights- legal, moral, professional, and in all ways- to make a statement. Alas, ignorance is not- or rather should not be- a firing offense.

So knock Huckabee for hypocrisy because he is deserving and because he's Mike Huckabee and deserves to be criticized most of the time. But he is right that Juan Williams should not have been fired- though wrong about the lesson to be derived from it, as will be explored in the next post.

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