It was almost 20 years ago when Dan Quayle made a fictional single-mother pregnancy into a political football, criticizing the television show “Murphy Brown” for Candice Bergman’s portrayal as an argument that fathers were “dispensable.” Now Mike Huckabee, at least a potential candidate for the presidency in 2012, has decided to criticize Natalie Portman’s very-much-nonfictional pregnancy as portraying a “distorted view of single motherhood”:
The day after 29-year-old Natalie Portman won the best actress Oscar, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appeared on “The Michael Medved Show” and slammed her for giving a “distorted image” of single motherhood, reports Us Weekly.
Portman is expecting her first child with fiance Benjamin Millepied, with whom she worked on the set of “Black Swan.”
Medved prompted the discussion about Portman by saying she appeared “visibly pregnant” and sent a “problematic message.”
“[O]ne of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman who boasts, ‘We’re not married but we’re having these children and they’re doing just fine,” Huckabee told Michael Medved. “I think it gives a distorted image. It’s unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out-of-wedlock children.”
Huckabee said Portman’s pregnancy was “troubling,” adding that most single parents don’t have the same resources to support children as the “Black Swan” star.
Michael Medved routinely comments on cultural issues (and excellently, I might add), so this is right in his wheelhouse. Obviously, so does Mike Huckabee, with his own show on Fox. Huckabee’s background as a Southern Baptist minister certainly informs his public dialogue. And on the facts, both are correct; single motherhood has become a major factor in poverty, crime, and other social ills, along with other causes more related to public policy than personal choices. Families with two committed parents allow children to develop healthier than they otherwise do, on average, as reams of social studies have shown.
As a conservative cultural commentator, Huckabee hit the right notes. If Huckabee wants to run for President, however, generating a debate over Natalie Portman’s pregnancy specifically doesn’t seem like a good choice, especially with the echoes of the Murphy Brown debate as context. Regardless of how single motherhood relates to others, Portman certainly has the resources to ensure that her child won’t fall into poverty. Also, given the description of Millepied, it sounds as if they will be rectifying the main complaint in a short while anyway. Perhaps Portman will end up setting a good example by marrying the father of her child, something that happens far too infrequently in Hollywood and everywhere else.
Besides, when was the last time Hollywood provided a good example of family life, especially in real life? Charlie Sheen may be an extreme example, but the entertainment industry is hardly known for its commitment to stable families. Portman’s example, considered in contrast to many of her colleagues, looks pretty good, and she seems committed to giving her child a two-parent environment. At least she didn’t terminate the pregnancy. That may sound like damnation through faint praise, but given the “role models” Hollywood produces, Portman is at the very least an odd target for a presidential contender.
Update: A couple of more points from e-mailers. First, Portman said during her acceptance speech that motherhood would be her “most important role” and thanked her fiance for it. For that, she took a lot of heat from feminists, as The Week noted earlier. Second, a number of people are claiming that Huckabee’s criticism could have been directed at Bristol Palin, but she hardly sought out the role of spokesperson for single motherhood, and tried twice to marry the father of the child, who turned out to be a cad.
Update II: Huckabee responds in a statement to CNN:
Mike Huckabee is explaining comments he made earlier this week criticizing Oscar winner Natalie Portman for being pregnant and unmarried.
“In a recent media interview about my new book, A Simple Government, I discussed the first chapter, ‘The Most Important Form of Government Is a Father, Mother, and Children,'” Huckabee said in a statement obtained by CNN. “I was asked about Oscar-winner Natalie Portman’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Natalie is an extraordinary actor, very deserving of her recent Oscar trophy and I am glad she will marry her baby’s father. However, contrary to what the Hollywood media reported, I did not “slam” or “attack” Natalie Portman, nor did I criticize the hardworking single mothers in our country.” …
Huckabee, a Baptist minister who ran for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, said when wealthy actresses have children without being married, they set a bed example for the rest of America.
“There aren’t really a lot of single moms out there that are making millions of dollars each year by being in a movie,” Huckabee said. “I think it gives a distorted image that not everybody hires nannies and caretakers and nurses. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and would not get healthcare.”
What do you think? If Huckabee wants to run for President, is this a fight he should pick? Take the poll: