If you’re a conservative politician courting the votes of bigots and racists, especially in Texas, Ted Nugent is your go-to guy.
Those good ole pols have been enthusiastically embracing Nugent for years because he draws the kind of crowds Republicans want in the Lone Star State. None of them voiced any objections when he called the president a “subhuman mongrel” and a “chimpanzee” or a communist. Not until it made headlines in the Dallas Morning News this month.
And even then the reaction was muted, sort of “Hey, that’s Ted,” or “I wouldn’t have said it that way myself.”
In a January 17 interview with Guns.com, Nugent called the President of the United States a “"a communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured, subhuman mongrel" and a “chimpanzee.”
Racists commonly use primate comparisons to refer to blacks. “Communist” is a favorite epithet of wing nuts on the far right. And “subhuman mongrel” is a term the Nazis used to justify the extermination of the Jews, and the fact that Nugent said that on a gun website takes on added significance. Nugent is an NRA favorite and a gun enthusiast who has called the president a “gangster” and said he should “suck on my machine gun.”
He made these comparisons in January, and they must have impressed Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general who is running for governor, because Abbot invited Nugent to make at least two campaign appearances with him. One Republican operative explained that was because Nugent is good at riling up the party's base.
Abbott shrugged off criticism from his likely Democratic opponent, State Sen. Wendy Davis, for campaigning with Nugent until the Dallas Morning News took notice of the “subhuman mongrel” attacks. After a period of silence, the Abbott campaign said the candidate may not necessarily agree with everything Nugent says but "we appreciate" his support.
When called on his use of a favorite Nazi term, Nugent attacked CNN as Nazi-like and compared himself to a "black Jew" in Nazi Germany.
Nugent didn’t start this stuff last month; he has been spewing this vile for years. It was so popular with Republican politicians that they courted his support. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) invited Nugent to be his guest at last year’s State of the Union Address because he knew it would be a highly visible insult to President Obama.
Sarah Palin is a Nugent fan. She wrote on her Facebook page that if Greg Abbott “is good enough for Ted Nugent, he’s good enough for me!” Politico reported.
Mitt Romney courted Nugent's support in his 2012 presidential campaign but ultimately disavowed his "divisive language," although, said a Romney aide, Nugent's "strident criticism of the president" was appreciated by party activists.
Only after the Dallas Morning News stories appeared did some Republicans begin to take notice.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is reportedly planning to make another run for the GOP presidential nomination, shrugged off Nugent’s comments as “inappropriate,” adding, "Anybody that’s offended – sorry, but that’s just Ted. I mean, the idea that Ted Nugent said something that’s outrageous shouldn’t surprise anyone, he’s been saying outrageous things for a lot of years.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), another presidential wannabe, defended Nugent on CNN. He said he might not agree with Nugent’s statements but he would welcome his support and love to have him campaign along side him. When pressed, he added that he didn’t agree with Nugent’s “sentiments” but he’d bet “the president’s Hollywood friends have said some pretty extreme things.”
In the face of such mild rebukes, a reluctant Nugent offered a lame apology – to Abbott, not to the man he insulted. He told a radio interviewer Friday, “I crossed the line. I do apologize, not necessarily to the President, but on behalf of much better men than myself.”
That was good enough for Abbott, who offered no regrets or apologies of his own.
Some on the right of the GOP, however, may now recognize how out-of-bounds Nugent is.
One was Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, another presidential possibility, who said on Twitter, “Ted Nugent's derogatory description of President Obama is offensive and has no place in politics.He should apologize,” CBS reported.
You can debate whether hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, but there should be no place for it in political campaigns, particularly at the high levels of governor, Congress and president, yet that seems to be Nugent’s specialty and the reason so many seek his support.
You can expect Nugent to keep appearing with Republican candidates in Texas and elsewhere because he brings out the crowds, and that says a lot about the mindset of the candidates, the message they want to deliver and what they think of their followers. And as long as racism, hate, Nazi references and bigotry is condoned, and Republican leaders like Gov. Rick Perry shrug it off with statements like “That’s just Ted,” Jews, Hispanics, blacks and other minorities will keep voting Democratic.