Campaign season is sneaking up — with claws out. And it’s not Maine bears on the prowl.
Here is the back story: About 11 months ago, politically incorrect rocker Ted Nugent gave an autographed guitar to the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. But the state’s largest sportsmen’s organization wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, said director David Trahan.
Only two months ago did it opt to sell the guitar on eBay for $7,000, with the proceeds to go toward the organization’s new firearm programs, including those for youth shooting sports and gun safety. The aim was to use the money to match a $16,000 grant from the outfitter Cabela’s.
The BDN reported on the auctioning of the guitar on June 24 and, in the piece, mentioned it was trying to secure an interview with Nugent to ask him about the guitar and his opinion about Maine’s Nov. 4 bear referendum.
Proponents of the referendum seek to ban hounding, trapping and baiting methods of bear hunting in Maine. The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine is one organization that opposes the referendum.
Nugent opposes it, too, as you could probably guess.
The bowhunter and National Rifle Association leader did oblige the BDN with an interview, published June 26. When asked whether he planned to involve himself in the debate about bear hunting, he responded, “Surely you jest. I have been and remain on the frontlines of all such ‘debates,’ and the animal rights freaks refuse to take me on in person for they know I have all the facts, and they know they have nothing but embarrassing denial.”
And that’s tame compared with his other political remarks. (In January, he referred to the president as “a communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured, subhuman mongrel.”) You could see why anyone would hesitate before aligning him or herself, or a cause, with Nugent.
So let’s be clear: Nugent was speaking to the BDN as a hunting enthusiast, not for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine or the Save Maine’s Bear Hunt campaign, which opposes the referendum. He was speaking as one person, in no official capacity for any organized Maine effort.
But proponents of the referendum have seized on the interview as a way to connect Nugent with the opposition in the minds of Maine voters.
In a press release, Katie Hansberry, campaign director for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, said, “It’s appalling, even for people who defend unfair and inhumane bear hunting practices, to trot out this unethical person as their mouthpiece.”
A YouTube video from the campaign, titled, “Fair Hunt Opposition Announces New Spokesman,” shows Nugent at some of his most controversial moments. A letter to the editor has been circulating among Maine publications too, referring to Nugent as “the new face for hounding, baiting, and trapping.”
The BDN on Tuesday published an OpEd submitted by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting that made a similar claim, which the BDN later corrected.
Nugent isn’t a poster boy for the opposition. That’s what the proponents want voters to think. James Cote, campaign manager for the Save Maine’s Bear Hunt campaign, confirmed that Nugent “has never been and will never be a spokesperson for our campaign. We, as the only organized opposition, have never announced that he has anything to do with our campaign.”
Regardless of one’s views on bear baiting, hounding and trapping, we think most will agree it’s unfortunate when one side must resort to deception to make a blanket statement about a complex issue.