Conservative commentators have been particularly critical of then-governor Huckabee for granting clemency to Clemmons when Clemmons was a teenager. Some, including Pat Buchanan, have speculated about the possible negative impact of the story on a 2012 presidential bid by Huckabee.
Huckabee lashed out over what he suggested were misplaced priorities during the radio show.
"It really does show though how sick society has become when we're more interested in the political consequences of an election that's three years away," Huckabee told Scarborough this morning. "…It is disgusting. But people use anything for a political weapon."
He also asserted that some of the facts critics have reported are inaccurate, responding in particular to conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, who stated that some had protested Huckabee's decision to commute Clemmons.
"The judge in the case, the trial judge, recommended the commutation," Huckabee said. "He had a 5-0 vote from the parole board, which was the recommendation that I had received. And despite what Michelle Malkin said, that there had been protests from the victims and the prosecutors, there is no record of that at all in that file. None. Where she came up with that, I don't know."
Huckabee encountered Clemmons' case in 2000, 11 years into Clemmons' 108-year sentence for theft and other charges. The former governor commuted the sentence, citing the fact that Clemmons was a teenager when he was sentenced, and Clemmons was released on parole. He was later arrested on other counts, including child rape, but went free when prosecutors failed to file charges against him.
Clemmons was sought by police as the sole suspect in the murders of four policemen last weekend in Washington, and was shot and killed this morning by a Seattle patrolman following a two-day manhunt.
Some Republican critics, Buchanan and Malkin among them, have likened the situation to that of Willie Horton, who sexually assaulted a woman and attacked her fiancé while released on a furlough program endorsed by then Massachusetts governor and onetime Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.
"If it is proven… that [Huckabee] was indispensible in seeing to it that this man was released, with the kind of record he had, I think it becomes almost like a Willie Horton situation," Buchanan said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "If Huckabee gave this fellow a parole, and he was indispensible in paroling him and setting him free, then he's got a hellish political problem, there's no question about it."
This is not the first time Huckabee has been tied to a situation that drew comparisons to the Horton case. In 1997, he is believed to have aided in the process that freed convicted rapist Wayne DuMond, who was arrested again after his release for sexually assaulting and killing another woman.
Huckabee said today that right now the focus should not be on him.
"The real issue is that there are four grieving families in Lakewood, Washington…That's the tragedy," he said.
Huckabee also addressed his critics in an article in the conservative news outlet Human Events today. He listed the "glaring facts" about the situation that he said "some conservative talkers seem to miss."
"I can take responsibility for my actions, but not for the actions of others nor the misinformed words of commentators," wrote Huckabee.