BANGOR, Maine — Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray said Sunday that he doesn’t plan to call off Ted Nugent’s Bangor performance despite remarks from two city councilors that the controversial rock star shouldn’t be allowed to play in the city.
Last week, Councilor Charlie Longo emailed a letter to Gray saying that the concert series shouldn’t allow Nugent to perform because of comments he made during a National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis. Longo later posted the letter to his website.
During the convention, Nugent was quoted saying, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. If you can’t go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil, America-hating administration, I don’t even know what you’re made out of.”
Longo argued that a man who would make such “threatening comments” doesn’t belong on a Bangor stage.
“In the wake of one of the most fiery election seasons ever, I believe that this vitriolic, incendiary rhetoric has no place in our national discourse,” he wrote.
On Thursday, the Secret Service agents met with Nugent and resolved questions regarding the comments, which Nugent, a staunch conservative and gun rights advocate, argued were not meant to be threatening. The Secret Service said it was satisfied by the meeting and said it would take no further action against Nugent.
Nugent’s comments have put him in hot water before. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Nugent took the stage during one of his concerts with a machine gun in each hand.
“Obama, he’s a piece of [expletive]. I told him to suck on my machine gun,” Nugent said, adding, “Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless [expletive].”
On Saturday night, Councilor Joseph Baldacci posted a series of articles related to Nugent’s comments on his Facebook page.
“[Nugent] has made several disturbing and violent statements against both President Obama as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” Baldacci wrote. “I don’t think he should be allowed to perform on city property. I think it’s not an issue of free speech, it’s an issue of his threatening verbal conduct — which is not protected by the First Amendment.”
In that post, Baldacci asks residents for their opinions on the issue.
Commanders at Fort Knox Army base in Kentucky cancelled a Nugent appearance that was scheduled for June 23 in the wake of his comments.
Baldacci said that move “only made sense,” adding that he “was brought up to respect the office of the president.”
On Sunday, Gray countered that the fact that the Secret Service cleared Nugent shows his comments weren’t intended to be a threat of violence against the president, but rather as a form of political speech.
“The courts have vehemently upheld political speech as free speech,” Gray said.
Gray said calling off the concert would put Bangor’s music scene on a “very slippery slope.” Performers’ agents might shy away from Bangor as a destination if they see another music act had a performance canceled because he or she said the wrong thing, Gray said.
Musicians have long expressed controversial political stances in songs and off the stage, he argued.
“I am far from a political historian, but I do know music has played a special part in civil disobedience, especially when it pertains to our government,” Gray said.
Gray said he might take another look at the Nugent concert if the majority of the City Council agrees with Longo and Baldacci.
Tracy Willette, director of Bangor’s Parks and Recreation Department, sent Gray an email Sunday after hearing that a councilor had raised concerns about the contract.
“The city has an agreement which reflects a contractual commitment with Waterfront Concerts,” Willette wrote. “The city will continue to honor that contract.”
Gray said that those who are bothered by Nugent’s comments can choose not to attend his concert. He said they also have the option of standing outside the gates of the concert and protesting Nugent’s presence.
“That’s what makes this country great,” Gray said.