Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has resigned from the board for the Country Music Association Foundation after his election was swiftly criticized in the music community.
On Wednesday, Huckabee was announced as a new member of the board of directors for the charitable arm of the association that runs the annual CMA Awards and the CMA Festival. The foundation's chairman Joe Galante praised the former Arkansas governor for his "policy experience with education reform" in a press release Wednesday.
In his resignation letter to the CMA Foundation provided to The Associated Press, Huckabee called his critics bullies, but said he was resigning to end "unnecessary distraction" to the foundation.
"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," Huckabee wrote. "Surely neither the artists or the business people of the industry want that."
He said that learning to play a guitar as a kid changed his life and that he was a longtime advocate of arts education.
"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 of people because of who they are or what they believe."
Within 24 hours of the announcement of his election, a prominent artist manager sent a letter to the foundation calling Huckabee's election "grossly offensive" due to his political opinions and associations with the National Rifle Association.
Jason Owen, who leads Sandbox Management representing artists like Little Big Town, Faith Hill and Kacey Musgraves, said in the letter that his clients would no longer support the foundation.
Owen and his husband have one child and are expecting more, but Owen said that Huckabee has made it clear that his family is not welcome.
"Huckabee speaks of the sort of things that would suggest my family is morally beneath his and uses language that has a profoundly negative impact upon young people all across this country," Owen wrote. "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."
Whitney Pastorek, an artist manager who represents Kristian Bush of Sugarland and who also criticized the board's election of Huckabee, said his resignation was the right move.
"It shows that they listened to the overwhelming outcry within the country music community and realized that his presence as a member of the CMA Foundation Board would do more harm than good towards their mission of music education for everyone," Pastorek said in an emailed comment. "I am proud to be a CMA member and even prouder to see our industry stand up and say that hatred has no place in country music, or anywhere else for that matter."