This article has been updated.
Potential 2016 candidate Mike Huckabee seems to be dedicating a disproportionate amount energy to criticizing pop star Beyoncé.
In a recent interview with People magazine, Huckabee skewers President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama’s parenting skills because they allow their teenage daughters Malia and Sasha to listen to the “Drunk In Love” singer.
After conceding that the Obamas “are excellent and exemplary parents in many ways,” the conservative former Arkansas governor said ”I don’t understand how on one hand they can be such doting parents and so careful about the intake of everything – how much broccoli they eat and where they go to school and making sure they’re kind of sheltered and shielded from so many things – 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, who has sort of a regular key to the door [of the White House].”
Huckabee is likely referencing the cordial relationship the Obamas enjoy with Beyoncé and her husband, rapper Jay-Z. Beyoncé famously performed at the president’s inauguration ball in 2009 and at his swearing-in ceremony in 2013. The couple has hosted fundraisers for the president, and Michelle Obama has also taken her daughters to see Beyoncé in concert.
This is not Huckabee’s first broadside against Jay-Z and Beyoncé. In Huckabee’s new book “Gods, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” due in stores Jan. 20, the Arkansas conservative rants about the couple’s performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
“My reaction: Why?” he writes. “Beyoncé is incredibly talented – gifted, in fact. She has an exceptional set of pipes and can actually sing. She is a terrific dancer – without the explicit moves best left for the privacy of her bedroom. Jay-Z is a very shrewd businessman, but I wonder: Does it occur to him that he is arguably crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife as a sex object?”
Who knew Huckabee was in MTV’s demographic or that he has such strong views about R&B and hip-hop? Meanwhile, Jay-Z and Beyoncé have not commented publicly on the “pimp” accusation, but they remain a lightening rod for right-wing critics of the president.
For instance, when the couple obtained visas for a fifth anniversary getaway in Cuba back in 2013 — well before the president renewed diplomatic relations with the country —right-wing conspiracy theorists were quick to allege impropriety on the part of the Obama administration. The controversy eventually inspired a Jay-Z song (“Open Letter”) and Obama was forced to refute that the White House had given the iconic duo a pass.
“I wasn’t familiar that they were taking the trip,” he told “Today” host Savannah Guthrie in April 2013. “My understanding is I think they went through a group that organizes these educational trips down to Cuba.”
Still, when it comes to Huckabee, these comments fit a pattern of controversial statements about how women do and should conduct themselves. He sparked considerable controversy when he implied early last year that women who use birth control “cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”
Some also see Huckabee as possibly blowing a racial dog whistle by name-checking arguably the most popular African-American couple in show business. “There’s a strong racial component to Huckabee’s unsolicited criticism,” Lori Adelman, executive director of Feministing.com told msnbc. “In a flimsy attempt to score cheap political points by criticizing the president and Beyoncé in the same breath, his condescending ruminations are the opposite of original, instead reflecting centuries of conservative white men’s preoccupations with the bodies, culture and conduct of black people, particularly women.”
His new book — which includes a chapter with the eyebrow raising title “Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner!” — may be his opening salvo in a long-shot bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. Huckabee recently resigned from his longtime role as a Fox News host in order to explore the possibility of a run.
Huckabee first ran for president in 2008, when he finished a distant second to John McCain in the GOP primaries. According to People magazine, the 59-year-old cringes at the notion of being considered a “prude.”
“I’m one of the strongest advocates for the arts you’ll ever find!” he told the entertainment publication.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited Huckabee’s book as the source for his criticism of the Obamas, but the original source was People magazine.