On Feb. 19, 2004, Mr. Huckabee announced his intention to grant Mr. Fields clemency. The announcement led to a legally required period for public comment, and among those who weighed in was the Arkansas office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In a politely worded letter to the governor, Teresa Belew, MADD’s local executive director, pointed out that Mr. Fields had a record of “ignoring second chances.” She urged Mr. Huckabee not to give Mr. Fields another break.
Mr. Huckabee did not welcome MADD’s recommendation.
Days later, in a letter that he demanded be kept confidential, Mr. Huckabee sharply criticized Ms. Belew for going public with criticism about the Fields case. “I cannot understand why you sent the letter to news organizations,” he wrote. He suggested that MADD was simply trying to fan “the flames of controversy that have been stirred in this case by the unusual curiosity of certain media members.”
He also had a more political score to settle. It concerned his wife, Janet Huckabee, who in 2002 lost her campaign to unseat Arkansas’s incumbent secretary of state, Charlie Daniels.
“You’ll further have to help me understand,” he wrote to Ms. Belew, “why you have been so public with this letter when during the last campaign season, MADD refrained from public comment regarding my wife’s opponent, a public official with several D.W.I.’s, one of which was in a state-owned car.”