Mike Huckabee tweets anti-Asian "joke" as hate crime numbers, racist rhetoric rise

Comedian Ken Jeong replies to ex-Arkansas governor's tirade: "I've decided to identify you as Racist!"

Published April 5, 2021 12:11PM (EDT)

Governor Mike Huckabee (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Governor Mike Huckabee (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Former Arkansas governor and long-ago presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, while trying to criticize companies that have objected to Georgia's new stringent voting law, joked that he now seeks to "identify as Chinese" in a tweet which was widely attacked as patently offensive to Asian-Americans. 

"I've decided to 'identify' as Chinese. Coke will like me, Delta will agree with my 'values' and I'll probably get shoes from Nike & tickets to @MLB games. Ain't America great?" Huckabee tweeted on Saturday. The tweet was apparently meant as a dig at Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball after those entities expressed opposition to the new Georgia voting law, which seeks to make the voting process in the state more restrictive and is disproportionately likely to affect Blacks and Latinx voters. To put it mildly, Huckabee's gag didn't land well, attracting more than 60,000 comments, with many users calling out the former governor for constantly avowing his Christian faith yet espousing hateful anti-Asian rhetoric. 

"I've decided to identify as Mike Huckabee because I am also a huge idiot who has no skills with interacting with modernity," Daily Beast reporter Asawin Suebsaeng responded.

Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, fired back by addressing Huckabee's daughter, the former White House press secretary under Donald Trump: "Dear Sarah Huckabee: You defended the former President's use of racist phrases like Kung Flu. Do you condone Mike Huckabee adding fuel to anti-Asian hate? Asking on behalf of Americans everywhere who drink Coke, fly Delta, wear Nikes, and watch baseball #StopAsianHate."

Comedian Ken Jeong replied directly to Huckabee: "I've decided to identify you as Racist!"

Others cited the recent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, which President Biden recently discussed in a White House address. "Anti-Asian hate crimes soaring and former GOP presidential candidate wannabe and top Trump ally tweets this," MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan wrote on Twitter. "Given the events of the last week, this is unbelievably dark," Franklin Leonard added. The New Georgia Project replied, "What in the openly racist hell?"

Huckabee's remark indeed comes amid an evident surge comes in anti-Asian hate crimes, most notably including the Atlanta-area shootings last month that left six Asian women dead

"Name-calling, shunning, and assault were among the nearly 3,800 hate incidents reported against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide over the last year, according to Stop AAPI Hate," The New York Times reported in March. The group said it had received reports of 3,795 incidents between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021, the Times reported, but said "the number could be higher because not all incidents are reported." 

In a more recent feature story, the Times reported on the rise of anti-Asian rhetoric and widespread acts of violence and intimidation, apparently fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, which Trump and many other conservatives have implicitly or explicitly blamed on China:

Over the last year, in an unrelenting series of episodes with clear racial animus, people of Asian descent have been pushed, beaten, kicked, spit on and called slurs. Homes and businesses have been vandalized. The violence has known no boundaries, spanning generations, income brackets and regions.

The New York Times attempted to capture a sense of the rising tide of anti-Asian bias nationwide. Using media reports from across the country, The Times found more than 110 episodes since March 2020 in which there was clear evidence of race-based hate.

Huckabee has yet to apologize or delete his tweet, and on Saturday night attempted to deflect criticism, responding to a user who called the original tweet "antithetical to the gospel" by writing, "I don't take Twitter or myself that seriously, but I do take gospel seriously. I truly wish you only joy & continued blessings."

By Zachary Petrizzo

Zachary Petrizzo was an investigative reporter at Salon. Follow him on Twitter @ZTPetrizzo.

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