Chely Wright is crying foul at Mike Huckabee‘s letter announcing his resignation from the Country Music Association’s philanthropic CMA Foundation board of directors.
In an open letter the openly gay country singer posted to her Facebook page on Friday (March 2), Wright responded to what she called Huckabee’s “cunning” and the “pure political prowess” of his letter, she said she did not believe the public would fall for his “slight of hand.”
“Not so fast, Mr. Governor,” she wrote. “Your letter is a predictable attempt to convince folks that this is a binary choice; the battle between (your side) providing schoolchildren with musical instruments and (the lefty liberals’ side) affirming LGBTQ people. You’re sneaky, Mike, but we’ve seen your colors before.”
On Thursday, Huckabee announced his resignation from the CMA Foundation board of directors after being elected just a day before with a letter to the board members that attempted to highlight what his intentions had been for the organization and respond to what he called “irrational vitriol” directed towards them over his religious and political views. He also discussed the the life-changing affects music has had on his life, having grown up in poverty and finding confidence through the art form’s creative self-expression. As well, he emphasized his advocacy for public education, having himself been a product of the Arkansas public school system.
The former governor of Arkansas, two-time Republican presidential candidate and once pastor and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention has often in the past publicized his conservative values and beliefs on the LGBT community.
“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,” he wrote. “Surely neither the artists or the business people of the industry want that.”
He continued, “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 of the polarization instead of bridging communities and people over the power of civil norms as reflected in the arts, then we as a civilization may not be long for this earth.”
But for Wright, promoting children’s music education is something that’s easy for everyone to agree on and she said that’s besides the point: If Huckabee is going to preach a message of tolerance — as he did in his letter — it’s something he should abide by first and for all people. “Stop using students as pawns to validate your bigotry toward LGBTQ people and our incredible straight allies,” she wrote. “Pitting people of faith against the equality movement is a fool’s errand.”
Much like Huckabee, Wright pointed to her own story to emphasize this point. She described her experience as a performer at the height of her career, unable to enjoy her success because she was closeted.
“I felt I had to hide because people with big platforms and a lot of power in society made me feel like I should be ashamed of who I am,” she wrote. “The work you did to convince people (many of them country music fans) that gays and lesbians are lesser human beings and deserve less was brilliantly executed… and it scared me to death.”
She continued, “You know those schoolchildren that you say you care so much about? Many of them are LGBTQ students and even more of them are the friends and classmates of those students. If you care about students the way you say you do — about their education, their spiritual well-being, their hopes and dreams, you’ll understand that what they need from you — and others with big platforms and a lot of power — is for you to stop maligning your fellow Americans due to their sexual orientation or their gender identity expression.”
This is Huckabee’s “brand,” Wright continued, which is why his appointment to the foundation board brought such outrage. It was not because he wants to do well by America’s children, it was because he does so while condemning some of them.
Wright, a lifetime member of the CMA, called the organization a “gold standard” in the country music industry and said she was “grateful” Huckabee is “no longer affiliated with this long-standing institution.”
She closed her letter by, again, recalling her own experience. “When I came out of the closet — very publicly — in 2010, I did it for me… so I could live my life authentically. Another sincere objective I had in coming out was to facilitate change for young people like me.”
Read Wright’s full letter at her Facebook page.