Share story

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during a radio show Friday that its hosts’ “Babe Bracket,” which has listeners rate 16 local female television personalities in a tournament-like contest, is conducted in a well-meaning way, but he later said he wasn’t endorsing the game.

“Y’all have some fun and everybody enjoys it,” Hutchinson said on KABZ, which came under fire after some complaints were raised last week. “We have to be careful not to be too politically correct. I think everybody knows the good spirit that it is in.”

Later Friday, his office issued a statement in which the governor said he was simply noting the recent controversy.

“My point was simple – I believe the hosts of the show are well-intentioned and their long-running contest was always done without any malicious intent,” Hutchinson said. “My comment this morning wasn’t an endorsement of any contest that is based upon looks. All women should be treated with respect and any measurement of workplace success should be based upon talent and performance.”

A TV news director who formerly supported the 21-year-old contest wrote in a blog post last week that the contest should end. The KABZ hosts have said they plan to continue it but hadn’t received clearance from station management.

The women are placed in the bracket whether they want to be there or not. Some local TV personalities are OK with the “competition,” but some aren’t.

Jared Henderson, a Democrat challenging Hutchinson this fall, said the governor was wrong to defend the show and criticized “lowest common denominator behavior.”

“Asa Hutchinson is stuck in the past defending the Babe Bracket,” Henderson said in a statement. “We know radio shows have to be entertaining, but in 2018 it’s time to draw a principled line in the sand to oppose sexist sentiments.”

Jan Morgan, who has announced she will challenge Hutchinson in the GOP primary, said she wouldn’t weigh in on the Babe Bracket.

“I’m focusing my time and attention on issues that hard working Arkansans actually care about, instead of weighing in on a senseless and sophomoric radio contest like this one,” Morgan said.