U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee addresses supporters as he formally launches his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during an event in Hope, Ark on May 5, 2015.
Photo by Mike Stone/Reuters

Huckabee’s ‘hucksterism’ problem won’t go away

Mike Huckabee has quite a few challenges he’ll have to overcome if his presidential campaign is going to succeed, but among the more dramatic is how he’s spent his time since leaving the Arkansas governor’s office.
The Republican is known for his media gigs, including hosting a Fox News program and a conservative radio show, but it’s his role as a snake-oil salesman that’s awfully tough to defend. CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Huckabee yesterday about his controversial business practices.
TAPPER: In January, sir, you rented out your email list to a group selling hidden cures for cancer embedded in Bible verses for the low price of $72. Don’t you lose credibility by attaching your name to things like that?
HUCKABEE: Well, I never signed that letter. I mean, I have a huge email list that I developed over many years and we did, in fact, rent it out to entities. But my gosh, that’s like saying that you run some ads on CNN, do you personally agree with all the ads that run on CNN? I doubt you do.
To his credit, Tapper explained that Huckabee’s argument sounds like “a false equivalent” – which, of course, it is – since the GOP candidate has peddled fairly ridiculous products, which “a lot of people would consider to be hucksterism.”
Huckabee simply repeated his original talking points, which is more than just unsatisfying.
One of the more obvious problems is that Huckabee’s mailing list has very little in common with a television network. People signed up to receive alerts from the Arkansas Republican, and he bundled those email addresses to create a lucrative and ethically dubious business venture – unsavory businesses pay Huckabee to send out sketchy messages to his supporters.
How sketchy? Huckabee’s list has been used to “blast out links to heart-disease fixes and can’t-miss annuities.” And this isn’t just some unfortunate part of his distant past – as recently as this year Huckabee was still sending his mailing list bizarre messages “about food hoarding.”
To be sure, Huckabee isn’t directly responsible for the often ridiculous messages, but these email addresses have gone out under his name and face, giving the appearance of an endorsement.
But let’s also not overlook the fact that Huckabee’s lucrative snake-oil operation isn’t limited to unfortunate uses of email addresses. Just two months ago, Huckabee also appeared in an infomercial-like video in which he touted an “amazing” treatment that can “reverse” Type 2 diabetes.
“Prescription drugs aren’t going to cure you,” he said in the video. Pointing to some kind of mysterious conspiracy, Huckabee added, “They’re only going to keep you a loyal, pill-popping, finger-pricking, insulin-shooting customer so Big Pharma and the mainstream medical community can rake in over $100 billion a year annually.”
The New York Times ran a report on the Republican’s “highly unconventional income streams,” which produce income that Huckabee chooses not to disclose.
I can appreciate why some politicians are eager to celebrate their private-sector successes, but I have a hunch Huckabee’s ugly business venture won’t be part of his 2016 pitch.