Liberal news and opinion website ThinkProgress, a publication that claims “the best way to advance progressive values is to accurately and thoroughly report on what is happening in America and the world,” has fabricated a horrific lie about Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee that is spreading across the Internet like wildfire.
Not only did ThinkProgress lie about Huckabee’s comments, it perverted a pro-liberty message all Americans should carefully consider.
Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. (Image source: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
On October 14, Huckabee appeared on Iowa radio program Mickelson in the Morning, hosted by Jan Mickelson, and the issue of criminal justice reform came up. ThinkProgress recounts the conversation in its article, accurately reporting how Mickelson referred to the modern prison system as a “pagan invention” and how he cited the biblical Book of Exodus, explaining that in the Old Testament, thieves were required to pay restitution to those they had stolen from. Mickelson goes on to explain that if a thief doesn’t have the means to repay the victim, he or she could essentially be sold into slavery to repay the debt.
In the article, titled “Huckabee Suggests Poor People Should Be Sold Into Slavery For Stealing,” ThinkProgress writer Scott Keyes writes, “Mickelson went on to argue why jails, which he claimed are a ‘pagan invention,’ are inferior to slavery: ‘We indenture them and they have to spend their time not sitting on their stump in a jail cell, they’re supposed to be working off the debt. Wouldn’t that be a better choice?’ the host asked.
“‘Well, it really would be,’ Huckabee replied without missing a beat, ‘Sometimes the best way to deal with a nonviolent criminal behavior is what you just suggested,’” wrote Keyes.
Keyes goes on to lambaste Huckabee for supporting Mickelson’s endorsement of a plan to “[reinstate] slavery in the United States.” Keyes concludes the article by stating, “But Huckabee’s comments, which come 150 years after the 13th Amendment’s adoption, appear to be the first time in modern history that a credible presidential candidate has joined the fringe call to reinstate slavery.”
Since being posted, the ThinkProgress article has been shared more than 36,000 times on Facebook alone, and it has been re-tweeted more than 2,500 times. The article has been reposted all over the Internet, with liberals across the country railing against the far-right religious extremism of Huckabee’s pro-slavery position.
The only trouble with Keyes’ stunning article is that it’s a complete lie that deliberately misleads the reader into believing Huckabee is a backwoods Southern bigot who wants to enslave impoverished Americans. In context, Huckabee’s comments are completely reasonable and have absolutely nothing to do with slavery.
Keyes’ article leaves out several important pieces of information. First, it never mentions that as Mickelson is making his comments about the biblical plan to use indentured servitude to repay criminal acts, a comment that Mickelson seems to be saying in jest, Huckabee continuously laughs, clearly not taking the suggestion seriously.
Second, Huckabee and Mickelson are not at all talking about, as Keyes describes it in his article, “selling human beings like chattel,” but instead are suggesting that instead of making people rot in prison year after year, they should have to work to pay back the harm they caused, a principle used by courts every single day when they force people who break the law to do community service as a punishment.
Third, Keyes completely leaves out Huckabee’s lengthy commentary on the subject, which clearly shows Huckabee’s true intent: “Look, my prison director in Arkansas used to say, and I quote him often, we lock a lot of people up because we’re mad at them, not because we’re afraid of them. And we need to lock people up we’re afraid of, but sometimes the best way to deal with a non-violent criminal behavior is what you just suggested: make them pay back, pay back more than they stole. Let it be an example.”
Mickelson then adds, “Restitution isn’t punishment. That’s what they owe. They don’t owe society. They don’t have a debt to society. They owe the person they damaged.”
“That’s exactly right. Pay that back,” Huckabee said, before going on to talk about how the stigma of having to pay restitution would act as a deterrent.
As any reasonable, fair-minded, honest person would admit after hearing the conversation, Huckabee and Mickelson are not advocating for slavery; they are actually supporting reforming the criminal justice system so non-violent criminals are not forced to go to jail—the very opposite of the accusation Keyes makes in his article!
Keyes suggests Huckabee and Mickelson are somehow singling out the poor, but the truth is that their proposed policy idea treats all people equally: If you cause harm, you should have to repay the damages. Whether you’re rich, poor, or somewhere in-between, the punishment is meant to restore what was lost.
Even worse than ThinkProgress’ treatment of Huckabee are its laughable claims that it’s “committed to accuracy” and that its authors “check [the] facts and seek multiple sources.”
“Any errors will be promptly and transparently corrected,” says the group. Call me a cynic, but I doubt it.
Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is a pro-liberty writer and editor of The Heartland Institute, a national nonprofit think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. You can follow him @TheNewRevere.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.