Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has come out swinging at Fox News personalities Bill O'Reilly and Greta Van Susteren for their "bizarre" trashing of the organizer
of the "Draw the Prophet" contest that sparked deadly violence in Texas.
The former governor of Arkansas, who once hosted his own show on Fox, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV
that O'Reilly and Van Susteren were snubbing free speech to "blame the victim."
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"I love both those folks, they're former colleagues at Fox … and I think the world of them. I understand why they would come to that conclusion but I disagree with it because you do not blame the victim of a crime for a crime committed by a murdering criminal," Huckabee said.
"Free speech is a precious right in this country. If we start saying, well you can say some things but not if it offends certain people ... I'm a Christian, I get offended every day by things people say about me and my faith. I don't want to murder anybody over it.
"I don't go and take an automatic weapon or a semiautomatic weapon or even a single-shot BB gun and go shoot somebody because somebody said something unkind about me."
Van Susteren criticized contest organizer Pamela Geller for jeopardizing the lives of police officers on duty at the event in Garland, Texas, which erupted in violence when two Islamic State (ISIS)-influenced gunmen opened fire, only to be shot dead by cops.
"Everyone knew this event would unglue some who might become violent," Van Susteren said. "My message is simple — protect our police. Do not recklessly lure them into danger and that is what happened in Garland, Texas at the Mohammed cartoon contest …"
"Yes, of course, there’s a First Amendment right and it’s very important, but the exercise of that right includes using good judgment."
O'Reilly was similarly critical, saying "Insulting the entire Muslim world is stupid.... It does not advance the cause of liberty or get us any closer to defeating the savage jihad."
But Huckabee countered: "I don't blame organizers of a free speech event for the fact that some radical Islamic savages decided to go and just mow down a bunch of people. I find that just bizarre."
Roommates Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi of Phoenix were killed by a police officer after they began shooting with assault rifles in a parking lot outside the art show.
The event consisted of an exhibit of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad as well as a drawing contest. Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are considered blasphemous and have triggered violence in other countries.
On its online radio station, the Islamic State (ISIS) announced that "two soldiers of the caliphate" had launched the attack.
Huckabee — author of the book, "God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,"
published by St. Martin's Press, and the latest Republican to seek the White House — said of the crowded field of GOP candidates:
"Let me be fair and say there are a lot of good candidates that are going to be running on the Republican side and my goal is not going to be to see if I can make them look bad.
"We're all running to be quarterback of the team and I want to be quarterback because I play a better game, not because I was able to disable and break the legs of the other people.
"What uniquely qualifies me not only to win the election but to govern effectively is that I did govern effectively and successfully over a long period of time."
He said he led The Natural State from 1996 to 2007 "in the most hostile environment anybody has faced in the country in a long time, a legislative makeup that was the most Democratic [and] lopsided in all of America."
"Being able to govern that kind of environment is the sort of experience and background that is needed to try to bring some commonsense solutions to Washington and get people to move together for the benefit of the country rather than just to go and have a stalemate over political challenges and ideologies," he said.
Huckabee said the 2016 presidential election is more important than the past few races because of the growing threat of terrorism.
"We're facing some things today that we didn't face four years ago and certainly not eight years ago. We're facing genuine threats to our national security not just that are happening in the Middle East but that are now happening on our own soil," Huckabee said.
"When radical Islamists are killing Americans or they're attempting to kill Americans in our cities, on our homeland, this ought to be of grave concern to us."
He said the nation's economy is also in distress.
"The president boasts about his great economic plans and how effective they are. I'm in Iowa today and I just toured a plant in Oskaloosa – they make fire hydrants – and it's 400 people who work here," he said.
"I bet if you ask them if their economy is recovery, they'd probably say, 'well, we're working hard, we're making a decent living, but I'd hardly say that the economy for us is in a great state of recovery.'
That's the fact for so many American workers and for many, it's not just that they're holding their own, they're really losing ground and losing it fast."
Huckabee also believes he'll gain an advantage in the race if the Democratic Party nominates former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, as it is expected to do.
"People forget that when I ran in Arkansas, I ran against the Clinton political machine.... Bill Clinton really had his thumb on Arkansas government as a 12-year governor of the state. He appointed every member of every board, agency and commission," Huckabee said.
"I inherited an incredibly challenging environment, walking into a situation that was totally dominated by people who did not like me.... I understand better how they play ball and most importantly how to beat that political machine."
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