DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has accused President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, of double standards in parenting, saying in an interview published Tuesday that the first family shelters its daughters from some things but allows them to listen to the music of Beyoncé.
The sharp rhetoric signals that, should he run for the Republican presidential nomination, Huckabee would make cultural and social issues the cornerstones of his campaign.
While promoting his new book, the former Baptist pastor told People magazine, "I don't understand how on one hand they can be such doting parents and so careful about the intake of everything — how much broccoli they eat and where they go to school ... and yet they don't see anything that might not be suitable" in Beyoncé's lyrics. He also said Beyoncé's choreography is "best left for the privacy of her bedroom."
In his book, Huckabee describes the Grammy Award-winning Beyoncé's lyrics as "obnoxious and toxic mental poison." He also accuses Beyoncé's husband, rapper Jay-Z, of "exploiting his wife" like a "pimp."
The first lady's office declined to comment on Huckabee's comments.
During a 2012, $40,000-per-ticket fundraiser in New York, the president thanked Beyoncé and Jay-Z for their friendship.
"Beyoncé could not be a better role model for my girls," Obama said.
Beyoncé sang at Barack Obama's second inauguration, as well at Mrs. Obama's 50th birthday party at the White House.
Huckabee's latest book, titled "God, Guns, Grits and Gravy," is full of criticism of Washington, New York and Hollywood and serves as a direct appeal to cultural conservatives, long part of his political base. Huckabee's rhetoric is likely to win him more fans among conservative activists who have tremendous sway in picking the GOP's presidential nominees in early nominating states such as Iowa and South Carolina.
Huckabee recently stepped down from his role as host of a weekend program on Fox News Channel. He ran for president in 2008, considered running in 2012, and has said he's weighing whether to seek the GOP nomination in 2016.
If he enters the contest, he has a strong network of pastors in the early states who can help mobilize their faithful. That network helped him win the lead-off Iowa caucuses in 2008, as well as earn victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Huckabee is no stranger to such pointed statements. At a Republican National Committee meeting last year in Washington, he suggested Democrats wanted women to believe they were helpless without government-financed birth control.
"If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without 'Uncle Sugar' coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it," Huckabee said. "Let us take that discussion all across America."
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed from Washington.