The Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation has just accepted the resignation its latest board member, Mike Huckabee. The tenure lasted less than 24 hours, and now raises serious questions about the organization and its future.
And you thought the Recording Academy had problems.
Now, the Country Music Association (CMA) has managed to alienate a giant percentage its constituency with one appointment to its board.
That appointment was for Mike Huckabee, whose election to the CMA Foundation Board immediately drew howls protest from prominent members. The former Arkansas governor and failed presidential candidate is known for harboring extremely anti-LGBTQ opinions and conservative Christian views, once comparing homosexuality to “drinking and swearing.”
Perhaps equally grating to opponents is Huckabee’s ardent support for Donald Trump. Mike Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is Trump’s press secretary.
Sounds like red state politics for for a red state genre. But his appointment turned out to be a huge misread CMA’s membership.
Accordingly, under intense pressure, Huckabee agree to resign after less than 24 hours.
The CMA Foundation is an education arm the broader organization. It’s tasked with promoting musical education and awareness in schools, with a noble charter to beef up music classes, activities, and access to instruments.
Unfortunately, that philanthropic endeavor has now been sullied by dirty politics and divisive conflict.
Huckabee’s post immediately drew the rebuke Jason Owen, one country music’s most powerful executives. In a stinging letter addressed to CMA chief executive Sarah Trahern, Owen threatened to burn down the CMA house with the biggest blowtorch he could muster.
In his stinging, open letter, Owen threatened to remove all this artists from both his Sandbox management firm and Monument label from the Foundation — if not the entire CMA:
“It is with a heavy heart that I must let you know moving forward, Sandbox and Monument will no longer support the CMA Foundation in any way (this includes everyone we represent collectively) considering the heartbreaking news shared today regarding Mike Huckabee appointee/elected to the CMA Foundation.
“Further, we find it hard to support the organization as a whole as a result. As you may know I have a child and two on the way. This man has made it clear that my family is not welcome in his America. And the CMA has opened their arms to him, making him feel welcome and relevant. Huckabee speaks the sort things that would suggest my family is morally beneath his and uses language that has a proundly negative impact upon young people all across this country. Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice.
“I will not participate in any organization that elevates people like this to positions that amplify their sick voices. This was a detrimentally poor choice by the CMA and its leaders. I only wish the best for you and I know how hard you work for the foundation but a grossly fensive decision like this only makes your job harder and diminishes the foundation’s purpose.”
That was likely the first several dominos, with CMA’s brass potentially looking at the end its organization — in about a day. Accordingly, CMA immediately pressured Huckabee to back f, and tender his resignation.
Huckabee agree. But on his way out, he fered a few stinging blows that further deteriorated the situation. Blasting Owens & Co. as a ‘bullies,’ Huckabee agreed to walk away. But Owen isn’t the only one that knows how to write a stinging letter.
Accordingly, here’s Huckabee’s impassioned send-f.
To the CMA Foundation Board
From Mike Huckabee
March 1, 2018
Dear Board Members:
I hereby tender my resignation effective immediately. I hope this will end the unnecessary distraction and deterrent to the core mission the Foundation which is to help kids acquire musical instruments and have an opportunity to participate in music programs as students.
Since I will not be able to continue in what I had hoped to be useful service in this endeavor, I wanted to at least put some things on the record. I have no expectation that it will change the irrational vitriol directed toward you or me for my religious or political views that necessitated my abrupt departure, but I want you to know what you would never know by reading intolerant and vicious statements on the internet about who I am or what led me to want to be a part your efforts to empower kids with the gift music. So please bear with me.
Music changed my life. I grew up dirt poor in south Arkansas. No male upstream from me in my entire family ever even graduated from high school. I had no reason to believe that my life would consist anything but scratching out a meager living and hoping to pay rent in a house I would never own just as generations before me had done.
Music changed that. The gift an electric guitar by my parents when I was 11 put in my hands a future. It took them a year to pay for the $99 guitar they bought from the J.C. Penney catalog. Granted, I was never good enough to make a full-time living at music, but the confidence I gained by playing, being in front people, and competing against myself and the low expectations I grew up with was transformative.
No need to recite my entire history, but I was especially baffled that I was accused not being supportive public education. I am the PRODUCT public education. As Governor my own children were the first children a Governor in 50 years to have their entire education grades 1-12 in the PUBLIC schools Arkansas. I fought to give teachers the largest pay raise in state history.
I successfully led the effort to allow teachers to retire with full benefits after 28 years service after my two Democrat predecessors vetoed the same bill. I personally shepherded through legislation that mandated both music AND arts programs for EVERY student in grades 1-12 and taught by fully certified teachers. We were one the only states to have ever done that.
I was Chairman for 2 years the Education Commission the States, comprised all 50 Governors, education leaders in the Senate and House from all 50 state legislatures, and the state education chief for each the 50 states. My chosen theme and agenda for those two years was music education for every child. I launched an initiative “Play it Again, Arkansas” that promoted donation musical instruments that would be pressionally refurbished and provided to students whose parents couldn’t afford the rent or purchase an instrument allowing them to be in the school band.
I traveled repeatedly to DC with the NAMM Foundation to advocate for music education and have worked with them for several years to urge states to mandate music and arts education. Now someone who has never met me threatens to wreck valuable programs the CMA Foundation because a personal contempt for my faith and politics. I am willing to get out the way for the sake the students the Foundation will hopefully help.
If the industry doesn’t want people faith or who hold conservative and traditional political views to buy tickets and music, they should be forthcoming and say it. Surely neither the artists or the business people the industry want that.
Until recently, the arts was the one place America could set aside political, geographical, racial, religious, and economic barriers and come together. If the arts community becomes part the polarization instead bridging communities and people over the power civil norms as reflected in the arts, then we as a civilization may not be long for this earth.
All us have deep passions about our beliefs. I do about mine. But I hate no one. I wish upon NO ONE the loss life or livelihood because that person sees things differently than me.
I hope that the music and entertainment industry will become more tolerant and inclusive and recognize that a true love for kids having access to the arts is more important than a dislike for someone or a group people because who they are or what they believe.
My sincere thanks to the CMA Foundation for believing I had something to contribute. I regret that my presence caused controversy and threats to vital support for deserving kids. Kids wanting to learn music shouldn’t be the victims adults who demand that only certain people can be in the room or be heard.
I wish you nothing but good will and success at reaching students across America who need music as much as I did. At the end the day, I’m not worth the fight, but the kids are. Never stop fighting for THEM!