June 19, 2018
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Ted Nugent: A lesson in First Amendment rights

Michael C. York | BDN
Michael C. York | BDN
Rocker Ted Nugent performs on the Bangor waterfront Sunday, July 8, 2012.


Entertainer Ted Nugent is at it again — or, did he ever stop?

The rocker who goes by names like “Uncle Ted” and “Motor City Madman” has long been an expert at stealing headlines for his repugnant remarks. In 1994 he called then-First Lady Hillary Clinton things we can’t print. More recently, in 2011, he said people who utter the phrase “gun control” should be jailed. Last year, he got a visit from the Secret Service after he said he would “either be dead or in jail by this time next year” if President Barack Obama were re-elected.

Now, he has descended on another subject: Trayvon Martin, a black teenager killed by neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida whose death prompted a national debate about racial profiling. Last month, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and the lesser charge of manslaughter; it found he was justified in shooting Martin because he feared great bodily harm or death. Protests ignited across the country.

Nugent, meanwhile, called on Zimmerman to sue Martin’s parents. In a July 18 column for the conservative news website Rare, he said Martin’s parents “may be held liable for the emotional pain and suffering Mr. Zimmerman has been put through for the past 18 months.” In another column, he called the dead teenager a “dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe” and added “no one can possibly dispute the recent surge in black racism increasing throughout Barack Obama’s presidency.”

Then, he took to the airwaves of a nationally syndicated conservative radio program, aired Saturday on WGAN in Maine, and blasted Martin, liberals and Democratic officials. He said the president and others in the administration are “just bad people” and alluded to the writers on the New Haven Register’s editorial board as “subhuman numb-nuts.” The newspaper, which later apologized, had criticized Nugent’s comments about Martin in a July 29 editorial that likened Nugent and Fox News to the Ku Klux Klan.

Because of his remarks, Nugent’s plan to give a concert Tuesday night at Toad’s Place in New Haven, Conn., drew protests, and a petition circulated calling for the show’s cancellation. Thousands signed it. Nugent, meanwhile, called those who disagree with him “idiots” and summed up: “People who hate Ted Nugent hate freedom.”

The right to free speech continues.

Nugent must realize that the protesters are invoking their First Amendment right just as he has done for decades. No one has to agree with him. But if they’re idiots for having and expressing their opinions, what does that make him?

It’s fine to protest the concert, but it’s up to Toad’s Place to decide whether the show will go on. Concert promoters have been here before. Last summer, two Bangor city councilors called for Nugent’s concert at the Waterfront Concerts to be canceled after Nugent made threatening comments about the president. The concert continued, as it should have, because the people who paid Nugent made the call on his performance. Other event organizers have decided differently.

Just as Nugent says what’s on his mind, concert-goers can, too — by not going to the concert. He has created a brand of invective conservatism for himself, and it sells. If you don’t like it, don’t buy into it.

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