Media Criticize Huckabee's “Gibberish” Defense For Obama/Kenya Comments

Mike Huckabee has claimed that he “simply misspoke when I alluded to President Obama growing up in 'Kenya' and meant to say Indonesia.” Numerous media figures have noted that Huckabee's defense is implausible: he made the false assertion twice, said Obama grew up “with a Kenyan father and grandfather,” and claimed that Obama's learning about Kenya's Mau Mau Rebellion led him to develop a deep-seated hatred of the British.

Huckabee: “I Simply Misspoke ... Simple Slip Of The Tongue”

Huckabee: “I Simply Misspoke.” A March 1 statement by Mike Huckabee:

On Monday, while on Steve Malzberg's radio show on New York's WOR Radio, I was asked about the President Obama's birth certificate issue. In my answer, I simply misspoke when I alluded to President Obama growing up in 'Kenya' and meant to say Indonesia.

As I have stated on page 1 of my new book 'A Simple Government' and in numerous interviews with dozens of reporters - I don't believe there is an issue with Barack Obama's birth certificate. However, I do believe there are serious issues with the President's policies, and I have been openly opposed to the President's world view.

I'm not surprised the NY Times chose to sensationalize this story. In fact, the New York Times, the AP, and other news organizations ran with the “sensationalized story” despite being specifically told by Steve Malzberg himself that they were incorrect in their assessment of the sound bite. You just can't help but laugh when my simple slip of the tongue, becomes a huge story - and a certain Presidential candidate claiming to visit all 57 states, gets widely ignored. [, 3/1/11]

Huckabee Spokesman: “Huckabee Simply Misspoke.” Hogan Gidley, the director of Huckabee's political action committee, reportedly issued the following statement to ABC News:

“Governor Huckabee simply misspoke when he alluded to President Obama growing up in 'Kenya.' The Governor meant to say the President grew up in Indonesia,” Gidley told ABC News. “When the Governor mentioned he wanted to know more about the President, he wasn't talking about the President's place of birth -- the Governor believes the President was born in Hawaii. The Governor would however like to know more about where President Obama's liberal policies come from and what else the President plans to do to this country -- as do most Americans.” [, 3/1/11]

Huckabee's Explanation Is Implausible

Huckabee Said Obama Grew Up “In Kenya” Twice During A Discussion About The “Mau Mau Revolution In Kenya.” Huckabee also referenced Obama growing up “with a Kenyan father and grandfather.” From the February 28 edition of WOR's The Steve Malzberg Show:

MALZBERG: Don't you think it's fair also to ask him, I know your stance on this. How come we don't have a health record, we don't have a college record, we don't have a birth cer - why Mr. Obama did you spend millions of dollars in courts all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate. It's one thing to say, I've -- you've seen it, goodbye. But why go to court and send lawyers to defend against having to show it? Don't you think we deserve to know more about this man?

HUCKABEE: I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits -

MALZBERG: Of Winston Churchill.

HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather. [WOR's The Steve Malzberg Show, 2/28/11]

Media Figures: It Wasn't Just a Slip Of The Tongue

TIME'S Sullivan: “Huckabee Still Not a Birther--But His Pants Are On Fire.” In a post headlined, “Huckabee Still Not a Birther--But His Pants Are On Fire,” TIME magazine senior editor Amy Sullivan wrote of Huckabee's explanation:

As for his repeated false assertion that Obama grew up in Kenya with his Kenyan father, the Huckabee camp now tells CNN and ABC that the governor simply misspoke. Several times. He meant Indonesia.

It's tempting to believe him. After all, Huckabee's charm as a political figure is his willingness to speak off the cuff, without the careful consideration of most politicians. So it's believable that he might have just been careless with his words or yammering on about a subject with which he really wasn't familiar.

Except for that whole comment about the Mau Mau Revolution, which took place in Kenya between 1952 and 1956. It's not the sort of vague reference that you just sort of toss off. And there's the bit about Obama growing up with his father and hearing about his Kenyan grandfather being persecuted. Obama only met his father once, which would have made it difficult to grow up steeped in tales of his Kenyan grandfather. Another misstatement, perhaps? Or is this the GOP playbook for 2012? [, 3/1/11]

TIME's Klein: “Lie That He Really Meant Indonesia.” TIME political columnist Joe Klein wrote:

Huckabee was never an entirely plausible candidate for President--could we actually ever elect a man who has his doubts about evolution? whose comments about Israel seemed to indicate a literal interpretation of the Bible and the Rapture myth?--but he always struck me as a good guy, more concerned about working-class America than most of his rivals. These comments, however, and his subsequent lie that he really meant Indonesia not Kenya, really show a demented, perverse sensibility, and they demonstrate some of the ugliness at the heart of Obama hatred.

I'm talking about the Mau Mau comment, especially. When I was growing up, Mau Mau was shorthand for: Extremely Scary Black People. The brutality of the Mau Mau rebellion was legendary (and, who knows, perhaps even accurate). It became a term of art in the sixties: to mau-mau was to intimidate white people. (As a young reporter in Boston, I covered a would-be black militant group that called itself, with brilliant irony, De Mau Mau.) To associate Barack Obama with the Mau Mau rebellion is to feed all the worst, paranoid fears of Glenn Beck's America--and, as any sane person knows, completely ridiculous.

But with Newt Gingrich--who endorsed Dinesh D'Souza's obscene theory that Obama had internalized his father's alleged view of the world even though he met his father only once, briefly, when he was a child--about to enter the presidential race, the question of where and how Barack Obama grew up should be a bright line test for every Republican candidate. If a candidate is willing to endorse, or equivocate, on these racist fantasies, we of the wildly powerless Mainstream Media Priesthood should shun and shame him or her. At the very least, a candidate who seeks to run against Obama should know where and how Obama grew up: in Hawaii, with a four-year detour to Indonesia, raised mostly by his white, Republican, Kansan grandparents. [, 3/2/11]

Wash. Post Fact Checker Kessler: “Clarification Raises More Questions.”* From a March 2 Fact Checker post by Glenn Kessler:

We all make mistakes. A slip of the tongue can easily happen, especially to a politician during an interview.

But Huckabee's claim that he misspoke when he said--twice--on the Steve Malzberg radio show that President Obama grew up in Kenya raises more questions. That's because of the context in which Huckabee made his claim.


Try substituting Indonesia into those comments and it makes little sense.

Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony, known as the Dutch East Indies. The British controlled Malaysia, which is kind of close to Indonesia, but the Mau Mau uprising took place in Kenya in the 1950s. Churchill, the British prime minister when the uprising erupted in 1952, put it down and Obama's grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was detained during the conflict.


But in any case Churchill had nothing to do with Indonesia, where Obama lived for five years, until he was 10.

So Huckabee's whole statement kind of falls apart, especially when Kenya is replaced by Indonesia. What was he really thinking?

We asked a Huckabee spokesman for an explanation and will post an answer if we get one. [, 3/2/11]

NY Mag's Amira: “That Is Gibberish.” New York Magazine assistant online editor Dan Amira noted that Huckabee's explanation “makes no sense” when you replace Kenya with Indonesia:

This is pretty much what we expected the clarification to sound like. Obama did spend a few years in Indonesia as a child, so maybe Huckabee just misspoke. He said Obama grew up in Kenya, but he meant to say Indonesia. Except that the entire train of thought revolved around Kenyan colonial history and how growing up there, specifically, influenced Obama. Plug in Indonesia and the whole thing makes no sense. Indonesia has no relation to British colonialism or the Mau Mau revolution, for example. ... That is gibberish. [, 3/1/11]

Serwer: Huckabee's Explanation “Doesn't Make Sense.” Adam Serwer wrote on The Plum Line:

You can't unblow a dogwhistle like this, but a Huckabee spokesman tried to walk it back saying that, “The governor meant to say the president grew up in Indonesia,” which (a) isn't true (he only lived there for four years) and (b) still doesn't make sense in the context of Huckabee's remarks about Churchill and“Mau-Mau guerrillas.” [The Plum Line, 3/2/11]

Wash. Monthly's Benen: “If Huckabee Thinks This Is Simply About 'Misspeaking,' He's Fooling Himself.” From Steve Benen:

If this were simply a matter of a verbal slip -- Huckabee meant “Indonesia,” but said, “Kenya” -- this walk-back would more or less put the matter to rest.

But if Huckabee thinks this is simply about “misspeaking,” he's fooling himself. In his little on-air tantrum yesterday, for the former governor didn't just confuse two foreign countries, he engaged in an ugly, layered smear.

Remember, as part of the tirade, Huckabee emphasized Kenya as part of an effort to argue that President Obama is hostile towards Great Britain and “imperialists.” The Kenyan part was clearly wrong, but the larger argument echoed the disgusting D'Souza/Gingrich argument connecting the president to "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior."

It is the cheapest and vilest of the right-wing smear campaign against the president, and Huckabee had to know better than to engage in such nonsense.

What's more, Huckabee's entire case is deeply stupid. After screwing the countries, Huckabee argued Obama offended the British by returning a bust of Winston Churchill (that never happened; Obama moved the bust from the Oval Office to the White House residence), misidentified the family members who raised Obama, and suggested there are legitimate questions about the president's birth certificate.

This was a pathetic display, intended once again to cater to right-wing pathologies about the president being The Other. Huckabee “simply misspoke”? I'm afraid he did much more than that. [, 3/2/11]

Salon's Kornacki: Huckabee “Made Specific Reference To The Mau Mau Revolution.” From news editor Steve Kornacki:

How does Huckabee, who has been on the national stage for four years now and who may be the front-runner for the GOP nomination if he decides to run, not know that Obama wasn't raised in Kenya? The statement that Huckabee's spokesman just gave to ABC News doesn't address this question:

“Governor Huckabee simply misspoke when he alluded to President Obama growing up in 'Kenya.' The Governor meant to say the President grew up in Indonesia. When the Governor mentioned he wanted to know more about the President, he wasn't talking about the President's place of birth -- the Governor believes the President was born in Hawaii. The Governor would however like to know more about where President Obama's liberal policies come from and what else the President plans to do to this country -- as do most Americans.”

The problem here is that Huckabee didn't just say that Obama was raised in Kenya -- he made specific reference to the Mau Mau Revolution, claiming that Obama, by virtue of his upbringing, would have a very different understanding of it than Westerners. That's much different than accidentally saying “Kenya” when you meant to say “Indonesia.”

And the birther issue is a red herring. This story isn't about whether Huckabee specifically subscribes to the view that Obama wasn't born in the United States; maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. The issue here is that Huckabee has just demonstrated that his main critique of President Obama's foreign policy is rooted in a belief that is demonstrably and laughably false. What other objections to Obama's policymaking does Huckabee have that are based on beliefs like this? [Salon, 3/1/11]

NBC's Todd: “It Was More Than Just A Slip-Up.” On the March 2 edition of MSNBC's The Daily Rundown, NBC News chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd said in response to Huckabee's clarification: “It was more than just a slip-up because he talked so much about the Kenyan - about actually what happened in Kenya.”

MSNBC's Schultz: “So He Misspoke And Meant Indonesia, Even Though He Said Kenya Twice.” From The Ed Show:

SCHULTZ: Huckabee tried to clarify these statements on his Huck-PAC website, saying “I simply misspoke when I alluded to President Obama growing up in Kenya and meant to say Indonesia.”

So he misspoke and meant Indonesia, even though he said Kenya twice. You heard it. And talked about the Mau Mau Rebellion against the British in Kenya. [MSNBC's The Ed Show, 3/1/11, via Nexis]

MSNBC's O'Donnell: “Huckabee`s Handlers Issued The Lamest Possible Press Release In Reaction To Getting Caught In An Outright Lie.” From The Last Word:

O'DONNELL: What does Huckabee know about what we should do next in Libya? What does Huckabee know about anything other than how to lose weight? As the pressure mounted today on Huckabee for lying about where the president grew up, Huckabee`s handlers issued the lamest possible press release in reaction to getting caught in an outright lie.

It was, quote, “Governor Huckabee simply misspoke.”

Huckabee wants to leave at that because he knows this particular brand of misspeaking is very, very useful for inspiring support of the 51 percent -- 51 percent of national Republican primary voters who believe that Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States.

Mike Huckabee desperately wants every one of their votes if he`s going to run for president next year. In his ugly pursuit of those votes, he has now fallen below the already low standard for integrity that we have come to expect from former governors of Arkansas. [MSNBC's The Last Word, 3/1/11, via Nexis]

*Example added in an update.