The ad, which is airing in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, shows Huckabee in front of a Christmas tree as he says, "Are you about worn out by all the television commercials you've been seeing, mostly about politics? Well, I don't blame you. At this time of year sometimes it's nice to pull aside from all of that and just remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ and being with our family and friends."
Huckabee is courting evangelical voters and other religious conservatives in his bid to win the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3. In Texas for a fundraiser, he said the ad was a harmless holiday greeting even though it excludes other religions.
"If we are so politically correct in this country that a person can't say enough of the nonsense with the political attack ads could we pause for a few days and say Merry Christmas to each other then we're really, really in trouble as a country," Huckabee said.
Catholic League president Bill Donahue said Huckabee went beyond wishing people a joyous holiday. Donahue said he was especially disturbed by the cross-like image created by a white bookcase in the background of the ad, saying he believed it was a subliminal message.
"What he's trying to say to the evangelicals in western Iowa (is): I'm the real thing," Donahue said Tuesday on Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends. "You know what, sell yourself on your issues, not on what your religion is."
Huckabee said the bookshelf is just a bookshelf and shrugged off the controversy: "I will confess this: If you play the spot backwards it says, 'Paul is dead. Paul is dead."'
He was joking about the Beatles' recording of "The White Album" and the urban legend that if a portion of the album is played backwards, the words "Paul is dead" is heard, a reference to the very much alive Paul McCartney.