Mike Huckabee said Friday he can't explain why the Vatican is pushing back on statements that Kentucky clerk Kim Davis met privately with Pope Francis during his visit, insisting it did happen and was "very personal, very private."
"It wasn't one of a long line of people lined up," Huckabee, who is seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, said on CNN's "At This Hour With Berman and Bolduan" program.
"It was private. A car was sent to her. They took her to the Vatican embassy in Washington [and] the meeting was held."
In a separate interview on Newsmax TV's
"The Steve Malzberg Show," Huckabee said:
"[There was] no one but she, her husband and the pope and one of his personnel…. He affirmed with her, her right to religious liberty."
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However, on Friday, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement that Davis was one of "several dozen" people who had been invited by the Vatican ambassador to meet the pope during his visit to Washington, but that her meeting was not private.
"Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope's characteristic kindness and availability," he said. "The only real audience granted by the pope at the Nunciature (Vatican embassy) was with one of his former students and his family."
The pope did not enter into details on Davis' situation, said Lombardi, and the meeting should not be considered as a support of her position.
Huckabee said that later, on a flight between Philadelphia and Rome, the pontiff told ABC's Terry Moran he believed religious liberty was a human right that transcended all law.
"I don't know what this spokesperson said but I know what the pope said to Terry Moran. I don't think Terry Moran is out there trying to shield for Kim Davis," Huckabee told Malzberg.
Davis' lawyer, Mat Staver, who said he was not in the meeting, told the media that Davis met privately for 10 minutes with the pope, but Lombardi disputed that.
Huckabee said Staver released a new statement, clarifying the meeting happened at the invitation of the Vatican and was not initiated by Davis or her attorneys.
But at the same time, the former Arkansas governor said, he wasn't at the meeting and "couldn't tell you exactly what happened."
He speculated that with all of the contention surrounding Davis, "maybe there's just a feeling that the Vatican doesn't want to engage in controversy.
"But I think the pope made it clear, that he does support religious liberty, he does support the notion that a person has a right to express their conscience. And he called it, by the way, not a religious right but a human right. Something bigger than just the laws of one country, one state, one city."
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