Presidential contender Mike Huckabee is looking for momentum after his second-place showing behind John McCain in the Jan. 19 South Carolina primary. Huck’s strong evangelical support may be insufficient to carry him to the top of the GOP ticket. Perhaps it’s time for the former governor and Baptist preacher to remind baby boomers about his service to rock history.
Back in 1975, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and fellow band member Ron Wood were driving from Memphis to Dallas when a patrolman in Fordyce, Ark., observed that their car was swerving and pulled them over. Richards claimed he was adjusting the radio, but he pleaded guilty to reckless driving and paid a $162.50 fine. Thirty-one years later, Richards, back in Arkansas for a Rolling Stones concert, told the audience that he “used to know the chief of police” in Fordyce. Then-Gov. Huckabee, himself a part-time bass player, was in attendance. After the show, Huckabee went backstage and seized the moment. “Keith,” he said, “I can pardon you and get that off your record. You can have a clean start in Arkansas.” Recalling the evening to GQ, Huck mused that perhaps this small gesture might someday lead to “my being able to give him a full pardon before God for all the things he’s done.”
Within a few months, Huckabee had personally filled out the pardon application to the Arkansas Parole Board (see below through Page 7); secured signatures of all the requisite board members (Page 8); and acquired for his state an original Keith Richards autograph (Page 7). Questions about the performer’s criminal history, personal background, and drug use were left blank (Pages 4 and 6), but the fun-loving rocker, who once confessed that he snorted his own father’s ashes—his publicist later said that was a joke—marked an X beside the statement, “My institutional adjustment has been exemplary and the ends of justice have been achieved” (Page 2).
Huckabee told Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone that for the rest of his gubernatorial term his standard response to complaints about favoritism was, “‘Hey, if you can play guitar like Keith Richards, I’ll consider pardoning you, too.”
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