Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was a guest Wednesday on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” -- though he seemed earlier in the day not to know that he would be crossing a picket line to appear.
Huckabee flew from Iowa to make the appearance, a day before the state’s first-in-the- nation caucuses. The candidate made no mention of the Writers Guild strike during his appearance and instead joked about having lived in a “triple-wide” trailer when he was governor of Arkansas. The amateur musician also played his guitar in Leno’s band.
Strike supporters outside the NBC studios carried signs calling Huckabee a scab. One read: “Huckabee you can’t deny this cross.”
The Leno show is among those being struck by the Writers Guild of America.
Until Wednesday, the show had been off the air since the strike began in November.
“ ‘The Tonight Show’ continues to be a stop on the campaign trail,” NBC spokeswoman Tracy St. Pierre said in a statement.
Separately, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made a brief taped appearance on David Letterman’s show. But Letterman, who owns his own production company, broke from other producers and reached an accord with writers last week. There is no such deal with Leno’s show.
Writers Guild strike coordinator Jeff Hermanson said there was “no doubt about it” that Huckabee would be crossing a picket line by appearing on Leno’s show, which is not part of any settlement.
Democratic candidates have vowed to honor the writers’ picket line.
Earlier Wednesday, Huckabee, while campaigning in Iowa, said he did not believe he would be crossing a picket line to appear with Leno because he thought writers had settled their differences with the late-night shows.
“My understanding is that there was a special arrangement made for the late-night shows, and the writers have made this agreement to let the late-night shows to come back on, so I don’t anticipate that it’s crossing a picket line,” Huckabee told journalists.
When reporters noted that the writers settled with only Letterman’s show, Huckabee protested: “But my understanding is there’s a sort of dispensation given to the late-night shows, is that right?”
Huckabee added that he supports the writers, “unequivocally, absolutely.”
“They’re dead right on this one,” he said.
On the show Leno asked Huckabee to explain his recent surge in the political polls.
“People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off,” Huckabee said.
“I think that’s part of what’s going on right now.”
Times staff writer Phil Willon in Riverside, photographer Jay L. Clendenin in Iowa and the Associated Press contributed to this report.