Mike Huckabee rips Natalie Portman for pregnancy, continues effort to "defend marriage"

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks at the 'Values Voter Summit' September 17, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Values Voter Summit is an annual conservative political gathering where the country's most conservative leaders and activists are invited to speak.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET with a response from Huckabee.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, one of the more socially conservative prospective 2012 Republican presidential candidates, had some choice words this week for Natalie Portman, the Academy Award-winning actress and mother-to-be.

On a conservative talk radio show this week, Huckabee called Portman's pregnancy "troubling" because she is not married. On Sunday, Portman won the Academy Award for her role in the movie "Black Swan" and thanked her fiance, Benjamin Millepied, for giving her "my most important role of my life."

"One of the things that's troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, 'Hey look, you know, we're having children, we're not married, but we're having these children, and they're doing just fine,'" Huckabee told radio host Michael Medved, the group Media Matters points out. "But there aren't really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie. And I think it gives a distorted image that yes, not everybody hires nannies, and caretakers, and nurses. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that's the story that we're not seeing, and it's unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock."

This is not the only instance where Huckabee has received attention for remarks he made this week -- on another radio show he mistakenly claimed that President Obama grew up in Kenya. He later said he misspoke, but reiterated that he thinks Mr. Obama has "a different worldview."

While most other politicians have focused economic issues, with unemployment hovering close to 9 percent, Huckabee argues social and moral questions are, in fact, economic issues.

"I do know there is a definite economic impact of the breakup of families in this country," Huckabee told CBS News political analyst John Dickerson last week on's Washington Unplugged. His remarks were in the context of President Obama's decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

As an opponent of same-sex marriage, Huckabee strongly condemned the president's decision. His political action committee is holding a "defend marriage" fundraiser today in response to the move.

Huckabee's socially conservative views helped him win the critically early Iowa caucus in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. The 2012 caucuses could be very different, Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn warned reporters this week, but given that marriage issues continue to be the subject of legislative debate in Iowa, Huckabee could have an advantage on that front once again.

Huckabee is correct in pointing out that few single parents are as well off as Portman -- 2010 Census data show that more than 33 percent of one-parent, unmarried households fall below the poverty level.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department in 2002, in conjunction with other agencies, launched the Building Strong Families (BSF) project to evaluate whether government promotion of strong relationships could help improve the well-being of children. A 2010 study said the project "had no effect on family economic well-being."

A recent CBS News poll found that seven in 10 Americans say the institution of marriage is getting weaker.

Meanwhile, the federal government and state governments continue to struggle to pay for Medicaid, the health program for low-income people. And as Democrats and Republicans in Washington continue to negotiate budget cuts for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, the Associated Press reports that the White House has agreed to a "$275 million cut from a program subsidizing community service jobs for low-income senior citizens, and $500 million in rescissions of unneeded money from a program providing food aid to low-income pregnant women and children under the age of 5."

UPDATE: Huckabee released the following statement today: "In a recent media interview about my new book, A Simple Government, I discussed the first chapter, 'The Most Important Form of Government Is a Father, Mother, and Children.' I was asked about Oscar-winner Natalie Portman's out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Natalie is an extraordinary actor, very deserving of her recent Oscar and I am glad she will marry her baby's father. However, contrary to what the Hollywood media reported, I did not 'slam' or 'attack' Natalie Portman, nor did I criticize the hardworking single mothers in our country. My comments were about the statistical reality that most single moms are very poor, under-educated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death. That's the story that we're not seeing, and it's unfortunate that society often glorifies and glamorizes the idea of having children out of wedlock."