UPDATE: TMZ video captures an uncomfortable Huckabee at National Airport. Not long after he’d declared, yes, he’d be proud to be on the ticket with John McCain. Fox described Huckabee on Meet the Press as “making his pitch” to be veep.

The assassination joke dogs Mike Huckabee for another day. Sure it was a lousy joke. Sure we know he doesn’t favor Obama’s assassination. But he still doesn’t address the point — his mouth is a loaded gun, prone to misfire. If this were a first, it would be “benign,” maybe, though the particular joke is still unbelievably off. But remarks by Huckabee like this could fill volumes. With a trigger-happy nominee, the Repubs hardly need another one in the No. 2 slot, some might argue.

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In his news conference Saturday, Huckabee acknowledged the line was a mistake. “It was a simple thing of an incredible distraction that happened somewhere backstage”, he said, “I made a rather awkward attempt at a joke, wasn’t all that great. I’ve apologized for it. I didn’t mean to offend anybody. I didn’t even remember having said it. I honestly had to go back and look at the tape.”

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The former Arkansas Governor said the controversy over the line has been blown out of proportion. He told reporters, “I think if people go back and look at the actual moment they’ll realize that it’s not nearly as much of a thing as some bloggers have attempted to make it to be. So all I would say is let people go back and look at what actually happened, and I think it’s a pretty benign interview.”

Tim Russert also asked Huckabee about it on Meet the Press. And dragged another semi-innocent name into the “joke.”

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It was a dumb, off-the-cuff remark.  There was a Bobby Knight incident going on backstage with a chair that fell, made a terrible noise, distracted the crowd.  I apologized for it immediately.  In no way–Tim, anybody that knows me knows that I would never, ever try to inject something like that to, to create any dangerous moment for any candidate, I don’t care who it is.  And, you know, it wasn’t the first dumb thing I’ve ever said and, let me go ahead and announce on this program, it won’t be the last dumb thing I’ve ever said.  I’m sure I’ll make other comments.  I mean, we all in politics do.  Ronald Reagan had an open mike and said, “I’m going to launch a nuclear attack against Russia.” I remember John McCain, you know, sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” I thought that was funny.  But, I mean, a lot of people didn’t.  This wasn’t funny, I’ll be the first to tell you that. Shouldn’t have said it.  I apologize.  I don’t know what else I can do.

E-mail on the subject has been rolling in. See a sample on the jump.