Media heaped praise on Huckabee's "sexual dig" at Edwards

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Media figures and outlets heaped praise on Mike Huckabee's comment, during the May 15 Republican presidential debate, that "[w]e've had a Congress that's spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop," a reference to reports that former Sen. John Edwards spent $800 of campaign money (which Edwards said was reimbursed) on two haircuts. ABC News' The Note, as well as The Politico's Mike Allen called the line an "instant classic," while The Politico's Jonathan Martin predicted that it "will dominate the news coverage in the days ahead."

At one point during the May 15 Republican presidential debate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee quipped: "We've had a Congress that's spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop," a reference to reports that Democratic presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (NC) spent $800 of campaign money on two haircuts. (Edwards later said the expenditure from campaign funds had been a "mistake.") In his May 16 column, Politico chief political columnist Roger Simon wrote of Huckabee's comment: "The audience loved it, but note that Huckabee said 'beauty shop' even though Edwards did not get his $400 haircuts at a beauty shop. (The barber came to him.) The use of 'beauty shop' therefore seemed to be a sexual dig, a somewhat more sly form of [right-wing pundit] Ann Coulter's calling Edwards a 'faggot' recently." Other media figures and outlets, however, heaped praise on Huckabee, referring to the line as an "instant classic," and predicting that it "will dominate the news coverage in the days ahead."

Simon's colleagues at The Politico were particularly effusive in their praise of Huckabee. On the May 16 edition of CNN's American Morning, Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei praised Huckabee's "great timing," adding that the dig at Edwards is "great for that red meat audience. I mean, they love making fun of ... sort of the masculinity of Democrats, and they love to take pokes at people -- Democrats who spend a lot of money. You know, they're elites, and ... that's the message they're trying to pound home." When co-host John Roberts said of Huckabee's comment, "Well, if that's a sign of how these debates are going to go in the future, you know, I say more, more, more, because it was pretty interesting," VandeHei responded: "Absolutely."

In his May 16 article, Politico senior political writer Jonathan Martin credited Huckabee for "the best one-liner of the night" and wrote: "It will be that moment -- along with the McCain shot at Romney and Giuliani's invoking 9/11 -- that will dominate the news coverage in the days ahead and set the tone for the next debate just three weeks from now in New Hampshire." In the May 16 edition of his "Political Playbook," Politico chief political writer Mike Allen described Huckabee's comment as "raw comedy" and called it an "instant classic."

The May 16 edition of ABC News' political newsletter "The Note" also labeled Huckabee's comment an "instant classic," referring to it as one of the "fabulous lines from the second tier." On the May 15 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, former presidential adviser David Gergen said: "Mike Huckabee did get off the funniest line tonight, when he ... said Congress had been spending money like John Edwards at a beauty side shop, and it got the biggest laugh of the night. I mean, it was a clever line."

On the May 16 edition of MSNBC Live, CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood, after viewing a clip of Huckabee's comment, praised him as "a better communicator than anybody else was on that stage last night."

From the May 16 edition of CNN's American Morning:

ROBERTS: And then there was a couple of humorous moments as well. John McCain trotted out again -- it's a pretty tried and true line for him, but it worked really well last night -- that Congress is spending like drunken sailors and, you know, I know a drunken sailor who said, I take offense at that. And then Mike Huckabee talking about spending as well and then tax cuts. He took a shot at John Edwards. Take a listen to this.

HUCKABEE [video clip]: We've had a Congress that's spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop, and it's high time --

ROBERTS: Oh, yow!

VANDEHEI: That was good. It was great TV. It was great timing on Huckabee who, in both debates, I think, has been pretty smooth, pretty articulate, maybe can start to establish himself as a serious --

ROBERTS: Although I don't know that Huckabee should be making hair jokes.

VANDEHEI: I don't know if he should either, but it's great for that red meat audience. I mean, they love making fun of -- of sort of the masculinity of Democrats, and they love to take pokes at people -- Democrats who spend a lot of money. You know, they're elites, and that's what they want to -- that's the message they're trying to pound home.

ROBERTS: Well, if that's a sign of how these debates are going to go in the future, you know, I say more, more, more, because it was pretty interesting.

VANDEHEI: Absolutely.

From the May 15 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

COOPER: David Gergen, what about that? I mean, do they have any shot? What needs to happen for any of them to be able to sort of break through? Is this just simply a money game and they don't have it?

GERGEN: I think it's very unlikely they're going to break through, and these debates don't give them much of an opportunity.

Mike Huckabee did get off the funniest line tonight, when he talked -- said Congress had been spending money like John Edwards at a beauty side shop, and it got the biggest laugh of the night. I mean, it was a clever line.

From the May 16 edition of MSNBC Live:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (anchor): The lightest moment of the night came at the expense, of course, of a Democrat, courtesy of Mike Huckabee. Let's take a look at that clip.

HUCKABEE [video clip]: We've had a Congress that's spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop, and it's high time that we have a different kind of tax structure.

BRZEZINSKI: Clearly not an off-the-cuff remark, but it --

HARWOOD: Not at all, but I tell you, Mika, if you look pound-for-pound, Mike Huckabee is a better communicator than anybody else was on that stage last night. The question for him is whether he can, in effect, talk himself into this race. He hasn't been able to raise the money to be considered anywhere close to the top tier, but he had a solid record as governor of Arkansas and, in both of these debates, he has been very likeable and very effective on that stage.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, ABC, CNN, The Politico
Person
Roger Simon, John Roberts, Jim VandeHei, John Harwood
Show/Publication
American Morning, The Note, MSNBC Live
Stories/Interests
John Edwards, 2008 Elections
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