Gabriel Sherman: That piece originated from talking with Frank Foer editor of the New Republic. And we were talking and Huckabee’s ascendance in the polls was fueled a lot by his image in the national press as a genial, fun loving, guitar playing governor. You know he was famous for running a marathon and losing all this weight. And most people if you asked them on the street, the general sense would be that this is a pretty easy going guy – which contrasted with his reputation and legacy as governor in the 1990s in Arkansas.
The Arkansas press core had long experienced feuding with him and really seeing the other side of his temper. And so the piece just originated from seeing his portrait as a national figure compared with his . . . his reputation as a local politician, and just sort of seeing the disparity there, and trying to fill in . . . fill in the gaps a little bit between his national image and his local one.
Gabriel Sherman: I mean it was a pretty straightforward process. I mean a lot of it was talking to reporters who covered him. And the other dynamic of the story that’s interesting is that when you have reporters who know someone so well and they’ve covered him for years as a local candidate and a local official, that they oftentimes know him on a much different level than the national press core who sort of parachutes in once he’s become a viable contender.
And so these guys down in Arkansas were just scratching their heads, because the guy that they’re reading about on the cover of the New York Times magazine or the cover of Newsweek was not the governor that they knew from Arkansas. So I think a lot of it was that they were just happy to talk about the governor that they knew. And these private letters were a pretty humorous example of his temper.
Gabriel Sherman: The letters were written to a newspaper editor named Max Brantley, and they were distinguished for their attention to detail. And Huckabee really wanted Brantley to know that he didn’t leave any stone unturned in his animosity for him. The funny thing is you realize that one would think a a state governor would be busy enough that he really wouldn’t sweat the small stuff and the minutia that sometimes happens in the press’ coverage of him. But he just had a whole litany of grudges against Brantley that he expounded on in these letters.
Question: How did Huckabee react?
Gabriel Sherman:I hounded them. And as the piece was closing his spokeswoman issued a statement that was unrepentant. And Huckabee . . . It was funny because it was one of the few times as a national candidate he flashed some of his temper from his Arkansas days. And they basically their point was that these were just some disgruntled Arkansas reporters who were just trying to interject themselves into the process.
Recorded on: February 8, 2008