The way that Mike Huckabee has handled the furor caused by the Huffington Post's coverage of his role in the release of Wayne Dumond, a serial rapist who went on to rape and kill at least one other woman, has been very revealing. And troubling.
It has exposed the dissembling reality behind the charming, articulate, more-preacher-than-politician facade - and has called into question both his judgment and his integrity.
Huckabee's response has been to fudge the truth, point the finger at everyone in sight, and -- that old standby -- blame the messenger.
Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning, Huckabee said of our story: "there are factual errors in what they have printed, some of it is outrageously incorrect." As an example of our factual errors, he cited... well, nothing. Not one.
He also claimed "the Huffington Post just doesn't want to give the whole story of what was going on." Really? Our original story on the Dumond case was over 4,000 words long and offered what even the American Spectator deemed a "detailed, convincingly irrefutable" presentation of the evidence in which HuffPost "backs up every single word." What's more, we included links to a number of never before published documents from the governor's own files.
Huckabee also claimed that in a follow up story "the Huffington Post totally misrepresented and just utterly distorted" the statements of Butch Reeves, his former top aide, who told us that, contrary to his former boss's claims, Huckabee had indeed influenced the parole board to reverse its previous rejection of Dumond's release. Huckabee described Reeves as "outraged," and promised that a statement from Reeves to that effect would be posted on mikehuckabee.com today. It just went up, ten hours later.
In the statement, Huckabee's campaign acknowledges the accuracy of the quotes attributed to Reeves in our story, but splits hairs over whether Huckabee's claims that Dumond's conviction was "outlandish" and "way out of bounds for his crime" (brutally raping a 17 year old cheerleader) were in the context of a discussion about "paroling" the rapist or in the context of a discussion about granting him "clemency" or "a pardon."
Even Huckabee appears vague on the semantics he now considers so important, having told Tim Russert in January: "They asked me did I think that he should be paroled, or something to that effect, and I simply said, "I think that his case has got to be given, you know, a serious look." The campaign now concedes he said more than that.
Most important, Huckabee made it clear to the parole board that he thought Dumond should be free. Does it really make any difference in terms of the tragic outcome whether Dumond would be freed through parole, clemency, or pardon? Isn't the point that Huckabee wanted him freed and that the board, which had recently voted 4-1 against paroling him, reversed course three months later and voted 4-1 for his release.
Tellingly, the Huckabee campaign chose to attack only the Huffington Post for our interpretation of Reeves' comments, even though our reporter Murray Waas was joined on the phone call with Reeves by Brian Ross, ABC News' Chief Investigative Correspondent, who filed a report offering the same interpretation. Yet there is no mention of ABC or Ross in the Huckabee campaign's press release. Why? Is it harder to dismiss ABC as "left-wing," and the charges as part of a partisan agenda?
But none of Huckabee's finger pointing (he mentioned Bill Clinton 12 times while discussing the Dumond case in his press conference on Tuesday) addresses the key questions raised by this tragic story: why Huckabee continued to favor the rapist's release, even after being sent police reports and wrenching letters from several of his victims detailing his horrific crimes (which included raping a woman while her 3 year old daughter lay beside her in bed); and why Huckabee, to this day, continues to insist "No one could have predicted what [Dumond] could've done when he got out" when we can read for ourselves the words of his victims predicting that the man would rape again - and perhaps murder - if released.
"Dear Wayne," Huckabee wrote in a letter to Dumond, after having read the victims' letters. "My desire is that you be released from prison." And no amount of spinning can change that, or the conclusion that Huckabee allowed his judgment to be swayed by the bleating of a collection of right-wing zealots who put their hatred of Bill Clinton over the well being of the public (Dumond's victim was a distant relative of Clinton, and the daughter of a major Clinton donor).
In interviews, Huckabee claims that his stand on Dumond was clouded by a surfeit of compassion. In reality, it was clouded by a surfeit of cynical pandering to a group whose support he felt he needed.
And no amount of denials and mudslinging by Huckabee can make the devastating evidence -- and what that evidence reveals about him -- go away.
To see how other media outlets are covering the story, click on the following links:
New York Times' Caucus: Huckabee on Rapist and Murderer
TalkLeft: Mike Huckabee's Tangled Web
CBS News: Murder Victim's Mother Assails Huckabee
The Carpetbagger Report: Can Huckabee take a punch?
Tom Maguire: Good Bye, Mike
Daily Kos: Huckabee and Dumond
Boston Globe: Huckabee defends his role in Ark. rapist's parole case
Pandagon: Huck"s little rapist/murderer problem
Matthew Yglesias: Dumond Docs
National Journal's Hotline: Hard Times For Huckabee
Time's Swampland: Huckabee"s Willie Horton