Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee resigned Thursday from the Country Music Association Foundation board of directors – less than one day after his appointment – after backlash over his anti-gay rights record.
“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,” Huckabee wrote in his letter of resignation.
Huckabee didn’t mention the controversy over his stance on gay rights in his letter. But he wrote, “If the industry doesn’t want people of faith or who hold conservative and traditional political views to buy tickets and music, they should be forthcoming and say it.”
A message left by CNN with the foundation seeking comment Friday morning was not immediately returned.
Huckabee, a two-time Republican presidential candidate, compared legalizing same-sex marriage to incest and polygamy in 2010. He also compared same-sex adoption to experimentation, saying that “children are not puppies.”
Jason Owen, the co-president of Monument Records who is in a same-sex marriage and has a son, told the association’s CEO Sarah Trahern and CMA Foundation executive Tiffany Kerns that neither his companies nor those they represent would support the foundation due to Huckabee’s appointment.
“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,” Owen wrote in an email obtained by MusicRow. “Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice.”
Whitney Pastorek, a manager of Sugarland’s Kristian Bush and a CMA member, also expressed concern in an email to CMA executives, casting Huckabee as someone who “engages in language of racism, sexism, and bigotry,” The Tennessean newspaper reported.
CMA board member Joe Galante told USA Today in a statement that Huckabee was elected to the board because he “led an impressive administration while serving the state of Arkansas and his policy experience with education reform is something we are fortunate to be able to learn from.”
Politically, many country music fans tend to lean conservative, and the issue of gay rights is seldom pressed in the industry.
The CMA Foundation is the association’s philanthropic arm and supports music education programs across the country.