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Portman singled out in Huckabee's family tirade


She won the acclaim of her peers, and a place in Hollywood history, when she won this year's Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Black Swan.

But Natalie Portman's week has taken an abrupt turn for the worse after her personal life became the subject of an early skirmish in America's next great political battle. The actress, who was heavily pregnant when she accepted her Academy Award on Sunday, found herself described as a symbol of the many ills of US society by Mike Huckabee, the right-wing former Republican governor of Arkansas believed to positioning himself for a tilt at the party's Presidential nomination.

Mr Huckabee won the Iowa caucus in 2008 because of his appeal to social conservatives, and may be minded to plough a similar furrow this time round, judging by his forthright comments regarding Portman during a nationally-syndicated radio appearance.

Asked to apportion blame for the alleged decline of family values, the staunch Baptist, who came second to John McCain in the last Republican primary season, took the opportunity to point the finger at the celebrity class. He apparently believes their colourful lives have caused a steep rise in the number of children born out of wedlock.

"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'," he told the conservative radio host Michael Medved.

"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. 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 healthcare."

Regarding Portman's Oscar acceptance speech, Mr Huckabee, a Fox News host, further noted that she thanked fiancé Benjamin Millepied, "who choreographed the film, and has now given me my most important role of my life". The most wonderful thing for Millepied to have given her, he decided in conversation with the radio host, would actually have been a wedding ring.

The comments sparked immediate debate. Though applauded in Middle America, many critics wondered why Mr Huckabee didn't also elect to point scorn at the nation's most famous young single mother who is currently pursuing a career in showbusiness: Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol.

It was the second time this week that Ms Portman has been thrust into the political arena. On Tuesday, she issued a statement explaining that, despite being the "face" of Dior, she refused to wear one of their gowns at the Oscars ceremony because of the anti-Semitic remarks recently attributed to its then creative director John Galliano.