Controversy surrounding Republican Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent -- after Nugent called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" -- demonstrates how far-right media figures can damage the GOP brand.
While the Abbott campaign initially feigned ignorance of Nugent's hateful and alienating rhetoric, the "subhuman mongrel" slur received substantial media attention when it was made public in January.
As the controversy unfolded, Nugent, who is also a spokesman for the Outdoor Channel, was also widely derided for his profane and derogatory descriptions of women, leading some to point out that Abbott's campaign decision was at odds with the GOP's purported plan to provide better outreach to women and minorities.
A look back at the how the story progressed is below.
The National Rifle Association's Connecticut lobbyist detailed a plan to remove from office lawmakers who voted for bipartisan gun safety legislation following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and boastfully suggested that the NRA was responsible for the decision of two pro-gun safety legislators not to run for reelection this year.
The NRA's claims about being able to influence the outcome of elections -- often advanced by a lazy media conventional wisdom -- are overstated. In fact research has shown that the NRA's endorsement and campaign contributions have little impact on the outcomes of elections, clearly evidenced by the NRA's disastrous 2012 federal election spending where more than 95 percent of $18 million spent by the NRA went to elections where the NRA-backed candidate lost.
Appearing on an NRA News program, the NRA's Connecticut state liaison Anna Kopperud said that 2014 will be "the year where we pick up our baggage and move forward" and spoke of a need to "correct some of the wrongs that we saw last year" following the enactment of gun safety legislation in the state.
While requiring background checks on gun sales is overwhelmingly popular with the general public, members of conservative media have used false statements and paranoid rhetoric to fight legislation to require checks for more than 20 years.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, commonly known as the Brady Bill or Brady Act. Signed by President Clinton in 1993 after a multi-year legislative effort, the law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on customers to prevent felons and other dangerous people from acquiring firearms. While a legal challenge invalidated a waiting period requirement in the Brady Bill created so local law enforcement could process background checks, in 1998 the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System was launched, allowing gun dealers to perform often instantaneous background checks on customers. Since then, the law has stopped more than 2 million gun sales to prohibited individuals.
The law derives its name from President Ronald Reagan's press secretary Jim Brady, who was shot and seriously injured during an assassination attempt on Reagan on March 30, 1981, at the Washington Hilton. Reagan was shot in the chest and arm and underwent lifesaving emergency surgery. In a 1991 letter published in The New York Times, Reagan ruminated on the anniversary of the 1981 shooting, writing, "This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now -- the Brady bill -- had been law back in 1981." Jim and his wife Sarah Brady continue to advocate for gun violence prevention polices through their close work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
PolitiFact reports that National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesperson Ted Nugent exaggerated his law enforcement credentials, which included his claim that he is "a cop in Lake County, Michigan" and that he "conduct[s] federal raids with the DEA and ATF and U.S. Marshals and the FBI and Texas Rangers."
In giving Nugent's claims a "pants on fire" designation, PolitiFact said none of the agencies mentioned by Nugent confirmed his participation in raids. The Texas Rangers issued a flat denial, telling PolitiFact, "In regards to your question about the Texas Rangers, that did not occur." The ATF, the federal agency tasked with enforcing gun laws, said "[w]e are not aware of him conducting any raids with us." The U.S. Marshals confirmed that Nugent had shot footage of a ride-along in 2005 when a raid was conducted for his Spirit of the Wild TV show, but that civilian observers of raids "cannot go with us into private residences."
PolitiFact concluded, "He is not a cop in Michigan by any conventional meaning of the word. No agency said that he presently plays any role in any of their raids."
While PolitiFact only rated Nugent's claims about his law enforcement credentials that were made during a recent appearance on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, Nugent has also previously claimed that for decades he has received "official" training from elite military units.
Media covering the controversy over Republican Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with inflammatory National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent are touting a poll showing Abbott with an 11 point lead as proof that Nugent has not hurt Abbott's campaign. But data collection for the poll ended on February 17, a day before the Nugent-Abbott controversy first received widespread attention.
On February 18, the day Nugent made two campaign appearances with Abbott, the Texas Democratic Party condemned Abbott for campaigning with someone who had recently called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel." A week-long media firestorm ensued that included condemnations of Nugent from prominent GOP figures, a disingenuous apology from Nugent, and a contentious appearance by Nugent on CNN.
On February 24, University of Texas/Texas Tribune released a poll conducted between February 7 and 17 showing Abbott leading likely opponent Democrat Wendy Davis 47 percent to 36 percent. 17 percent of voters were undecided in the poll. Notably, the polling covers a period when Davis was receiving largely negative press coverage because of a right-wing media smear campaign about her biography.
Still, members of the media have erroneously used the polling to offer insights about the impact of the Nugent controversy on the Texas governor's race.
From the February 25 edition of KFTK's The Dana Show:
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National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent suggested that the Obama administration is causing a "power struggle between the different races," in a similar manner to the events that preceded the Holocaust.
Nugent, who also represents the Outdoor Channel as a spokesperson, made his latest inflammatory remark while appearing on comedian Dennis Miller's radio show to discuss fallout from his widely condemned recent claim that President Obama is a "subhuman mongrel." After Miller objected to Nugent's frequent comparison of his political opponents to Nazis, Nugent responded by comparing the Obama administration to Nazi Germany:
In a disingenuous effort to deflect the firestorm that has engulfed him for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," Ted Nugent is dishonestly claiming that President Obama previously said the same thing.
Nugent's comments were criticized from politicians of both parties and the media after he appeared at two campaign rallies for Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott last week. The National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesman offered an insincere apology on February 21 for the racist remark, but two days later began demanding apologies of his own on Twitter after discovering that "Obama called blacks mongrels on the View." He will likely offer a similar argument when he appears on tonight's edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront.
But words in different contexts can have different connotations. Nugent's comments are in no way comparable to Obama's.
During a July 2010 discussion of race relations on The View, Obama was asked why he identifies as African-American rather than biracial given that his mother was white. Obama replied that because "the world saw me as African-American," he embraced that. He added that because many who identify as African-American have some white ancestry, "we are sort of a mongrel people." He concluded that he is "less interested in how we label ourselves, and more interested in how we treat each other."
BARBARA WALTERS: You do not describe yourself as a black president, but that's the way you are described. Your mother was white. Would it be helpful, or why don't you say "I'm not a black president, I'm biracial."
OBAMA: Well you know, when I was young, and going through the identity crises that any teenager goes through -- I wrote a whole book about this -- part of what I realized was that if the world saw me as African-American, then that wasn't something I needed to run away from, that's something that I could go ahead and embrace. And the interesting thing about the African-American experience in this country is that we are sort of a mongrel people. I mean, we're all kind of mixed up. That's actually true for white America as well, but we just know more about it. And so, I'm less interested in how we label ourselves, and more interested in how we treat each other. And if we're treating each other right, then I can be African-American, I can be multi-racial, I can be, you name it, what matters is, am I showing people respect, am I caring for other people, that's I think the message we want to send.
By contrast, during his January 2014 interview, Nugent attacked Obama as a "Chicago communist raised communist educated communist nurtured subhuman mongrel" and an "ACORN community organizer gangster" who should be imprisoned for treason.
NUGENT: I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised communist educated communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America. I am heartbroken but I am not giving up. I think America will be America again when Barack Obama, [Attorney General] Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, [Sen.] Dick Durbin, [former New York City Mayor] Michael Bloomberg and all of the liberal Democrats are in jail facing the just due punishment that their treasonous acts are clearly apparent.
So a lot of people would call that inflammatory speech. Well I would call it inflammatory speech when it's your job to protect Americans and you look into the television camera and say what difference does it make that I failed in my job to provide security and we have four dead Americans. What difference does that make? Not to a chimpanzee or Hillary Clinton, I guess it doesn't matter.
Anyone who claims that these comments are comparable only exposes themselves as either a liar or a fool.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent has offered a disingenuous and tepid apology after being condemned across partisan lines for his description of President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel." The apology only came after Nugent attacked his critics on Twitter and elsewhere, at one point comparing CNN to a top Nazi propagandist.
But while Nugent has taken some measure of responsibility for his "subhuman mongrel" remark, the comment is just a drop in the bucket compared to his long history of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, animus towards immigrants, and propensity to use violence-tinged language.
Nugent's racist characterization of the president received widespread attention and created problems for the campaign of Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott after Abbott tapped Nugent to participate in campaign events.
Appearing on The Ben Ferguson Show, Nugent apologized, though "not necessarily to the president" for his "subhuman mongrel" comment, then attacked the president as a lying, law-breaking racist who engages in Nazi tactics.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Arizona Senator John McCain, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Speaker of the House and current CNN host Newt Gingrich have all condemned National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent for describing President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel." Nugent has reportedly offered a half-hearted apology for his remark.
Nugent's racist slur of Obama came while he was representing the Outdoor Channel at a January gun industry trade show. In an interview with Guns.com, Nugent also called Obama a "gangster" and suggested that he should face the "just due punishment" for treason. This week, a maelstrom of controversy erupted around Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with the inflammatory Nugent.
Abbott has quietly distanced himself from Nugent -- he will no longer appear at campaign events -- but has not publicly condemned Nugent's "subhuman mongrel" comment. A number of prominent conservatives, however, have offered varying levels of condemnation for Nugent's remark:
From the February 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
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A Storm Lake, Iowa, police sting operation that resulted in the arrest of a felon attempting to buy guns through Facebook demonstrates the latest evolution of a dangerous and unregulated "private sales" gun market in the United States.
In February 1994, the Brady Law went into effect, requiring licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on customers to keep guns out of the hands of felons and other dangerous individuals. This meant that gun shows -- which attracted unlicensed "private sellers" -- became the ubiquitous public unregulated gun marketplace in the United States. But over the past 20 years private sellers and buyers expanded the unregulated marketplace first through the classified sections of print newspapers before sales went online. Internet sales have since spread from gun-themed marketplaces to popular websites like Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram.
As the unregulated marketplace has expanded, so have the efforts of gun violence prevention advocates to pressure sales venues to enact responsible rules for gun sales. A recently launched campaign by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has already resulted in more than 55,000 letters asking Facebook to stop facilitating firearms sales. The campaign has been aided by a video explaining how Facebook is used to sell guns that riffs on Facebook's 10th anniversary "look back" feature:
The vast unregulated gun market is a result of the federal law governing firearms sales.
Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott will reportedly no longer campaign with inflammatory National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, whose presence on the campaign trail caused a firestorm of controversy due to Nugent's recent description of President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel."
Nugent, however, is also involved in the campaigns of other Republican office seekers in Texas, Colorado, and Georgia. Last year, Nugent also claimed a close working relationship with prominent members of the GOP, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. At the time, Walker said he did not work with Nugent, and Cruz appeared on CNN's New Day on February 20 to deny he "hang[s] out" with Nugent.
Here are three instances of Nugent campaigning for Republicans and two instances where Nugent's claims about close relationships with prominent GOP figures have been called into question:
In a December 2013 e-mail addressed to "real Americans," Nugent fundraised for Colorado gubernatorial hopeful Tom Tancredo, a former U.S. Representative best known for his hardline immigration stance. In the fundraising pitch, Nugent wrote that, "like you, I'm terrified by where Barack Obama and his radical America hating leftist goons are leading this great country." Nugent praised "hero for liberty" Tancredo's opposition to "amnesty for illegal immigrants," and warned that the Obama administration and democratic governors "are determined to shred our constitution and take away our guns." "The way I see it is anybody that wants to disarm me can drop dead," added Nugent.
While much of the controversy surrounding Abbott's decision to campaign with Nugent has related to the rocker's "subhuman mongrel" comment and offensive remarks about women, Texas media has also raised Nugent's inflammatory commentary on immigration. The San Antonio Express noted that Nugent has called for undocumented immigrants to be treated like "indentured servants." Indeed, Nugent did make that claim in May 2013 when he debuted the "Nuge Immigration Plan," which would require undocumented male immigrants to build a fence on the United States-Mexico border. The Houston Chronicle reported on a 2008 appearance on Fox News where Nugent said of undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the border, "I'd like to shoot them dead."
National Rifle Association President Jim Porter wrote that "the big gorilla in the room is Obama's lawless approach to governing" in a Daily Caller op-ed. Porter also claimed that a "corruption of power" by President Obama could mean "the wondrous stability of our nation could end."
Claiming that "gun owners have become victims of Obama's abuse of power," Porter wrote in his February 19 op-ed that "[i]n contravention of absolute congressional spending bans, Obama has ordered the Centers for Disease Control, in effect, to create a massive gun-ban propaganda and lobbying agenda to treat gun ownership as a public health menace."
But the Obama administration has not ordered the CDC "to create a massive gun-ban propaganda and lobbying agenda." In reality, the Obama administration's January 2013 presidential memorandum asked the CDC to "[c]onduct or sponsor research on the causes and prevention of gun violence and the ways to prevent it." The Obama administration has noted that the CDC cannot, under federal law, "advocate or promote gun control," but that "research on gun violence is not advocacy; it is critical public health research that gives all Americans information they need."
The Obama administration action was a reaction to lobbying by the NRA that seeks to prevent the CDC from conducting research on gun violence. The Obama administration subsequently issued an executive action that asked Congress to appropriate $10 million to fund further CDC research into gun violence. As the Obama administration suggested, gun violence is a major public health concern that is described by the American Medical Association as an "epidemic."
CNN and MSNBC devoted significant coverage to controversy surrounding Republican Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with the inflammatory Ted Nugent, while Fox News ignored the controversy entirely. Nugent, who is a conservative columnist and National Rifle Association board member, appeared on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor for a softball interview earlier this month.
Controversy erupted over Abbott's decision to hold two campaign events with Nugent in Texas after critics pointed out Nugent recently called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" and that the rocker has a history of vile attacks on women. CNN devoted 37 minutes and 24 seconds to the controversy, while MSNBC covered it for 13 minutes and 48 seconds. The controversy was never mentioned on Fox News: