He set up the appointment three weeks ago. On Easter Sunday — “Easter Sunday, no less,” he emphasizes — they called him four times to confirm that he’d be there, waiting. The next morning, they called again. Sent a few emails, too. Just to make sure.
So Mike Huckabee had every reason to believe that, between the hours of 8 and 10 a.m. on April 18, Comcast would, indeed, show up.
Yet by noon, the technician hadn’t showed. The house in Little Rock was empty, save for Huckabee, his wife, Janet Huckabee, and a telephone line and Internet that hadn’t worked since December. Janet phoned Comcast, irate. The company’s light jazz hold music failed to soothe. They suggested she “write up a report.” “We don’t want a report,” Janet told them, per her husband’s retelling. “We want a repair.”
“So I unleashed a Twitterstorm,” Huckabee tells me over the phone, “and lit them up.”
The former Arkansas governor began punching out tweets comparing Comcast customer service to United Airlines, the North Korean missile launch team, and “cold molasses pouring out of pinhole.” “Makes gov’t look efficient; as fun to deal with as root canal,” he wrote. He said he’d prefer the service of the mafia: “Sure they shoot you, but it’s over with and they don’t charge you for the bullet.” Hell, he said, he’d “rather have Obama back as President” than deal with Comcast.
As the retweets took off, Huckabee received calls from “Comcast executives all over the country,” he says. “I’m thinking, you’re only interested because I have 600,000-plus people following me. What about the person who doesn’t have a Twitter account?”
Within the next few hours, a technician had arrived and fixed the Huckabees’ phone and Internet. The ordeal ended with what Huckabee says is his favorite tweet he’s ever written:
“They made apt 3 wks ago and didn’t show and didn’t care,” he wrote, “…until the ‘Twit’ hit the fan!”
“I really did think that was funny!” he reflects with a chuckle.
Huckabee’s Twitter account has become something of a uniting force in this fractured America, with users of all ideological stripes deriding it as “painful,” “deeply bizarre,” and, critically, “not funny.” But it’s also made Huckabee a minor social media celebrity, his tweets needling Chuck Schumer, the Pulitzer Prizes, CNN, and Hillary Clinton racking up thousands of retweets apiece. The tweets aren’t necessarily carefully mapped out—an idea will hit him in an instant, he says, often when he’s “in a meeting that has turned very boring, which it usually has. Then I’ll have some brain discharge.”
Observe the discharge:
Breaking News! Jimmy Dean Sausage Co will be renamed GORSUCH SAUSAGE because he’s grinding up some Democrat Senators into PURE PORK SAUSAGE!
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 21, 2017
Only English speaking TV I get at Norway is BBC-oh my! It stands for BIASED BORING CRAP. It’s more effective than Ambien as sleep inducer.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 6, 2017
Poop Dogg has nephew named Bow Wow; both bad dogs who advocate murder and sex slavery for @POTUS and First Lady;Who let the dogs out?
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 17, 2017
The “haters” and “trolls” are plenty, Huckabee says. “But the part that gets me is that nobody is required by law to follow anyone on Twitter. When they tell me, ‘Delete your account!’ I’m thinking, well, just delete me!”
“It amuses me when people are that sensitive,” he continues. “And I’m like, why did they go to Twitter, this forum, of all things? Go get some goldfish, a puppy, some coloring books, some Play-Doh instead. It’s just hard for me to understand.”
Huckabee’s Twitter account wasn’t always this quotable. Until February 2016, when he dropped out following the Iowa caucuses, it was a polite forum for such missives as “Come, let’s reason together.” The irreverence began in earnest a month later, when he tweeted, “Trump says the chaos in Chicago was a planned attack. But Hillary insists it was a spontaneous reaction to an internet video.”
Why the change? “What happened was after the campaign I finally got access to my password. Before that, everyone was so afraid that I’d tweet the sort of things I’m tweeting now,” Huckabee explains. “They were afraid the whole campaign would be shipwrecked. And it might’ve been. But now, what the heck, I’m never gonna run for anything again. I’m free–”
He pauses our phone conversation: “Well that’s pretty cool,” he says. “There’s an osprey flying over.”
“It’s a great bird,” I say.
On March 23, Jimmy Kimmel brought comedian Patton Oswalt onto his show to perform some of Huckabee’s tweets, the idea being that, perhaps with a much-loved performer reading them, the jokes might land better. They still didn’t, really. But Huckabee waves it off, says he was “flattered” to receive the attention. “They delivered it in a very monotone, lame way. It was already destined for failure because they set it up that way.” (A bonus, though: “It probably boosted my Twitter subscribers by 20,000.”)
He can still count his children as fans. “Sometimes they’ll text me and say, ‘Dad, are you serious?’ But thankfully my kids love me despite what’s frequently called dad jokes.” In an email, his daughter, White House deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, allowed that his jokes sometimes fall flat. “My dad has a great sense of humor and most of the time is pretty funny,” she says, “but every once in awhile he has some pretty corny jokes that even my 3 year old wont laugh at!”
But don’t take Huckabee’s Twitter activity to mean he’s just dawdling post-election. “I’m busier than I think I’ve ever been. I’m not lacking for something to do,” he says. He’s still a frequent contributor at Fox, and adds that he has a “big media project” that will be announced “within a few weeks.” He won’t hint at much more than that, just that it’ll be “a big deal.”
Huckabee says he was offered a cabinet post and two different ambassadorships—“not Israel, by the way”—in the Trump administration, but he won’t specify which. He says he declined them all. “I told Trump, you know, somebody else will get these jobs, and they have the right to believe that they were the only person you ever asked.”
But back to Twitter. I have something like 5,800 followers, which is the political-media equivalent of zero. And I know other aspiring social media stars want to know: What advice does Huckabee have for those looking to make their marks on Twitter, to have the confidence it takes to put yourself out there, haters be damned?
“Two things,” he says. “Be who you are. Be yourself. And number two, expect a backlash if you say anything that isn’t bland.”
“Elaina, I have a simple philosophy,” he concludes. “Most people take themselves too seriously, and they don’t take God seriously. I try to do the opposite.”