Cliven Bundy's abhorrent, racist comparison of slavery to federal poverty assistance bears a striking resemblance to common claims from conservative media, who have frequently invoked slavery to describe the supposed damage "the welfare state" has done to black Americans.
Nevada rancher Bundy, who was praised by conservative media for engaging in an armed standoff with federal agents after refusing to pay decades worth of federal grazing fees on public land, on April 19 questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," telling a reporter in a racist rant:
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.
"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
As Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted, Bundy's repugnant rhetoric sounds familiar -- it's the same logic behind many right-wing criticisms of the social safety net. Media Matters has been tracking this type of offensive rhetoric for years.
During the fight over health care reform, Rush Limbaugh claimed that "It won't be a matter of whether you have coverage or don't have coverage. What'll matter is that all of us will be slaves; we'll become slaves to the arbitrary and inhumane decisions of distant bureaucrats working in Washington where there's no competition, nobody you can go to if you don't like what you hear from the bureaucrats that you have to deal with."
When Glenn Beck was a host on Fox News, he had an obsession with comparing things to slavery, including the claim that progressive policies created "slavery to government, welfare, affirmative action, regulation, control," and that "big government never lifts anybody out of poverty. It creates slaves." In 2008, Jim Quinn, the co-host of the radio show The War Room with Quinn & Rose, was forced to apologize for comparing "slave[s] in the Old South" to welfare recipients today, when he claimed that the only "difference" was that the "slave had to work for" the benefits Quinn said they received.
In his 2008 book Let Them In, The Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley argued that the Great Society programs of the 1960s were ultimately worse for black families than slavery, writing "The black family survived slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, but the well-intentioned Great Society sounded its death knell."
More recently, Riley promoted the twisted logic of George Mason University's Walter Williams (who has often guest-hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show), who claimed that because more black children live in single-mother families now, welfare "destroy[ed] the black family" more than slavery:
During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived in two-parent families. Today, more than 70% of black children are born to single women. "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do," Mr. Williams says. "And that is to destroy the black family."
Ted Nugent, National Rifle Association board member and a favorite of conservative media, has become infamous for his extreme racism for calling President Obama a subhuman mongrel -- but Nugent also used the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to claim that the Great Society programs were "responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined." In a 2011 Washington Times column, Nugent also suggested that the Democratic Party is the "modern-day slave master" to low-income Americans.
Vox's Matt Yglesias noted the irony of Bundy criticizing the government for assisting Americans through federal programs, when he himself has benefited from federal subsidies which keep the cost of grazing low for ranchers like himself. And though the abhorrent comparison of slavery to welfare is ridiculous on its face, it's worth noting that federal benefit programs have been vital in keeping Americans out of poverty -- in fact, federal programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half, whereas in 1967 they only reduced poverty by a single percentage point.
Conservative media may finally renounce Bundy and his lawless cause following his racist remarks; but they should also renounce this harmful, inaccurate comparison.
On April 25 the National Rifle Association kicks off its three-day annual meeting, hosted this year at the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, which will feature far-right conservative media figures known for extreme rhetoric.
Tourism officials expect more than 70,000 attendees at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium for the meeting, and attendees will be able to peruse more than 400,000 square feet of exhibition space to enjoy "over 600 of the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world!" As in years past, the NRA expects that roughly 80 percent of attendees will be men.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America -- part of the newly launched 1.5 million member Everytown for Gun Safety organization -- is planning on bringing 100 mothers and 20 gun violence survivors to Indianapolis in order to urge NRA leadership to support requiring background checks on gun sales.
Attendees can also view a number of presentations, the most prominent of which include the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, the Annual Meeting of Members, and the Stand and Fight Rally. The NRA-ILA forum will feature several prominent GOP officials including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Far-right conservative figures are a mainstay of these annual meeting events. During last year's Stand and Fight Rally, keynote speaker Glenn Beck depicted then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, in a Nazi salute, leading to condemnation from Jewish groups. Other presentations at the 2013 meeting reaffirmed the NRA's hardline stance following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the claim of new NRA president Jim Porter that President Obama would seek "revenge" against gun owners.
In addition to the NRA's own bombastic CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, this year's meeting will feature Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, radio host Mark Levin, religious hardliner Franklin Graham, and others known for their extreme right-wing rhetoric:
Mark Levin is a conservative commentator best known as the host of The Mark Levin Show, which is a nationally syndicated radio program by Cumulus Media Networks. Levin delivered a video message at the 2013 annual meeting in which he claimed that the Second Amendment protected a "well-armed militia" in case "the federal government got out of control." (The Second Amendment actually calls for a "well regulated militia.") Levin is known for his inflammatory commentary, including the recent claim that the "key" to a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 would be "her genitalia." He has also accused Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.
Opposition to virulent conservative columnist Ted Nugent's appearance at an event sponsored by The Blade of Toledo, OH, is growing, with the president of the paper's Newspaper Guild speaking out against Nugent and an anti-gun violence group launching a petition to stop the concert.
"As the president of the Guild and more importantly as an individual, I do not support Mr. Nugent's political views," Deborah Riley-Jackson, president of the Newspaper Guild of America Local 34043, which represents Blade newsroom employees, told Media Matters via email. "Freedom of speech requires one not to engage in recklessness."
At issue is The Blade's sponsorship of the upcoming Northwest Ohio Rib-Off, a four-day August food and music event the newspaper has been running for four years.
The Blade announced last week that Nugent, a rock musician, columnist for conspiracy site WND, and National Rifle Association board member whose offensive comments about President Obama and other leaders have drawn criticism, will play the festival on August 8.
Riley-Jackson said she did not believe Nugent's appearance would hurt her members' credibility, but stressed, "I do believe that [the] event itself may suffer. The Rib-Off is a family event that a lot of people look forward to, enjoying good food and entertainment. The people will decide if it was a good idea to have included in the lineup of entertainment."
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, meanwhile, has launched a petition urging organizers to remove Nugent from the concert line-up.
The petition states, in part, "The Northwest Ohio Rib-Off webpage brags that 'nothing goes better with savory BBQ than jamming, rib-bone in hand, to a rocking band.' Certainly, nothing goes worse with good food than the virulently racist rhetoric of a man who has no regard for the dignity or rights of others."
Mike Mori, The Blade's sales director and Rib-Off event director, told Media Matters last week that he had already received "quite a few" calls from readers objecting to the appearance.
"It surprised me how many calls I got," he said. "I'm listening to the people and I probably will do something different next year if I can."
The director of a summer event sponsored by the The Blade of Toledo, OH, says the scheduled appearance of Ted Nugent is sparking a backlash from members of the community who take issue with the conservative commentator and musician's virulent commentary.
"All things being equal I wouldn't bring in a guy who is aggravating people, that is not my intention," said Mike Mori, The Blade's sales director, who is also event director for the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off, a four-day food and music event the newspaper has been running for four years. "It seems like this thing has kind of ballooned in the last couple months. I will probably think long and hard about inviting him next year."
The Blade announced today that Nugent, whose offensive comments about President Obama and other leaders have drawn criticism, will play the festival on August 8.
Mori said he has already received "quite a few" calls from readers objecting to the appearance. "It surprised me how many calls I got," he said. "I'm listening to the people and I probably will do something different next year if I can."
But Mori told Media Matters if he cancels Nugent's appearance this year, he still has to pay him the full fee, which he declined to reveal but said is more than $50,000.
"I have to pay him that even if it rains," Mori said. "I wish the guy would just not say the things he does, he brings a big audience, he's from Michigan, he packs the place. If everyone hated him, nobody would come. He does have a following, it's a tough situation. I try to have a diverse type of a line-up."
Mori, who stressed that he is "not a fan of the guy's politics," said he had signed Nugent to play the event in October 2013, before the latest uproar. He added that Nugent played the Rib-Off festival in 2012 without incident.
Mori said the festival pays most of the major acts about $50,000, adding that many big names want double or triple that amount. He said the fee is lower to keep down ticket prices, which run $6 to $12 depending on the performer.
Blade President and General Manager Joseph Zerbey did not respond to requests for comment, while Blade Editor Kurt Franck declined to offer an opinion.
"I try to make a mix of music, I try to stay out of politics, I'm in a tough position," Mori said. "I don't agree with what the guy says."
When a mass shooting occurs, conservative media rush to blame mental health, video games, a lack of armed people present, and even liberal values -- anything but the fact that the shooter was able to get a gun.
But the single proximate factor in all mass shootings, and in all gun violence really, is that it is easy for dangerous people to access high-powered firearms. Lack of access to firearms typically makes it difficult for would-be mass murderers to carry out their plans. For instance, experts say mass stabbings are extremely rare in the United States. To the contrary, 69 percent of all homicides are committed with a gun. Of 37 public mass killings since 2006, 33 involved firearms, while the Boston Marathon bombings, an incident involving a car, and two cases of arson accounted for the other four incidents.
Furthermore, academic research has linked the easy availability of firearms to homicide. According to numerous studies, "where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide." Compared to other high income nations which typically more strongly regulate the availability of firearms, the United States' gun homicide rate is 19.5 times higher, leading to an overall homicide rate that is 6.9 times higher. Research has also shown, "across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides. These results often hold even when the United States is excluded."
Following the April 2 shooting at Fort Hood that left three victims dead and 16 others wounded, conservative media have refused to acknowledge the role of easy access to firearms in shootings and have instead claimed mass shootings are caused by video games, mental health problems, the "culture war," and by a deficiency in the number of firearms carried by the general public.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent wrote that opponents of gun safety laws "must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns," citing a Connecticut law that banned assault weapons following the use of an AR-15 in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Nugent's claim in his regular column for conspiracy website WND that Parks is his "hero" because of her efforts to fight segregation came on the same day that Media Matters made available a copy of a 1990 interview where Nugent defended the apartheid, a system of racial segregation enforced in South Africa, with the claim, "All men are not created equal."
In his March 26 column, Nugent wrote, "If anyone believes that gun confiscation is not a real threat here in America or that it couldn't happen here like it did in the U.K. and Australia, just look to what is happening in Connecticut." Connecticut's new law prohibits the future purchase of assault weapons and requires current owners of assault weapons to register their guns. Despite a federal court ruling that the law is a constitutional means of regulating weapons under the Second Amendment, thousands of gun owners are reportedly refusing to register their weapons.
Nugent, who is also a spokesperson for the Outdoor Channel, went on to compare the supposed plight of gun owners to the experiences of victims of racial discrimination who fought against segregation:
In 1955, my hero, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a city bus. Good for her. In 2014, gun owners must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns. As Rosa Parks once said, "You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right."
In a 1990 interview now available online for the first time, National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesperson Ted Nugent defended apartheid in South Africa, said that he uses racial expletives because he "hang[s] around with a lot of niggers," and described the bizarre efforts he claims to have taken to avoid military service during the Vietnam War.
Snippets from "Ted Nugent Grows Up? Older, Bolder, Cruder, Ruder -- And More Unprintable Than Ever," published in Detroit Free Press Magazine on July 15, 1990, have been floating around on the Internet for years. Media Matters requested a copy of the interview from the Detroit Public Library, which archives the Free Press, to authenticate the statements.
Nugent has recently been the subject of widespread controversy after calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" during an appearance at a January gun industry trade show. That comment resurfaced the next month when Republican Texas governor hopeful Greg Abbott invited Nugent to campaign with him. Abbott's decision created a firestorm of controversy around Nugent that only dissipated after he offered a disingenuous apology for his remark. Fallout continues from that controversy, as a Texas music festival recently announced it would pay Nugent not to show up for a planned performance.
The comments made by Nugent to Detroit Free Press Magazine demonstrate how his slur of Obama is par for the course for the NRA representative (all ellipses are DFP's):
From the March 23 edition of MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki:
Loading the player reg...
Clinging to persecution fantasies that seem to grow darker each year, conservative voices continue to hype doomsday scenarios in which President Obama is scheming to confiscate firearms, socialize American medicine, silence his critics through brute political force, and wage violent class warfare. Allegedly under siege at every turn as their freedoms are stripped away, conservatives embrace an imagined status as perennial victims.
The result? Wallowing in self-pity and convinced of the dark forces moving against them, conservatives launch attack after attack, insisting they're fighting forces at home akin to Hitler's Nazi storm troops. They complain louder and louder that America has become like Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler when 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Nazi analogies aren't new and conservatives didn't trademark them. But the cries have become far more frequent during Obama's sixth year in office.
Four years ago, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes accused the management of National Public Radio of having "a kind of Nazi attitude" for firing commentator Juan Williams. Former Fox host Glenn Beck frequently immersed himself in offensive Hitler rhetoric during Obama's first years in office, while the then-burgeoning Tea Party movement did the same. And so did Rush Limbaugh, who obsessed over Obama-Nazi comparisons in 2009: "Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate."
In 2009, the Anti-Defamation League, led by Holocaust survivor Abe Foxman, documented the Tea Party's growing reliance on "Nazi comparisons" as a way to express its anti-Obama rage. Yet today the Nazi claims arrive effortlessly and on a depressingly regular basis as conservatives line up to compare this president, his allies, and this country to one of the worst chapters in civilized history.
The thoughtless rhetoric not only captures how detached Obama's critics have become from reality (not to mention the blanket insensitivity involved), but it also reveals the bizarre view conservatives have of their alleged political strife.
Fox News contributor Dr. Ben Carson recently claimed America is now "very much like Nazi Germany" in that it has a government "using its tools to intimidate the population." Carson defended the insulting comparison by suggesting American conservatives are being targeted and intimidated by the government: "Maybe if I don't say anything, I won't be audited, people won't call me a name."
Audited? Name-calling? Historical note: Those were certainly among the least painful afflictions Jews suffered during the Nazi reign of terror. "I know you're not supposed to say 'Nazi Germany,'" said Carson. "But I don't care about political correctness."
From the March 19 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
Loading the player reg...
After ducking the controversy over National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," NRA leaders at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference tried to shield the organization from the fallout over those comments.
While some NRA supporters criticized Nugent, three NRA board members sought to downplay his actions and his connection to their organization, suggesting he isn't viewed mainly as an NRA representative or brushing the controversy off as unimportant.
Nugent issued the slur during a January interview, but the comments received new interest last month when Nugent campaigned with Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Following days of negative coverage for both Abbott and Nugent, including condemnations from GOP leaders, Nugent offered a half-hearted apology, though "not necessarily to the president," for his "subhuman mongrel" comment. He then attacked Obama as a lying, law-breaking racist who engages in Nazi tactics.
Former NRA president and current board member David Keene said the "subhuman mongrel" comments do not reflect on the gun-rights organization because "Ted is seen as Ted more than as an NRA board member."
Grover Norquist, another NRA board member, said the comments were "not a good idea," but added they are not bad enough to hurt the NRA's image because Nugent is viewed differently than other NRA leaders.
"He's a rock star and people know he's talking as him and he is talking outrageously," Norquist said following a CPAC "meet and greet" he hosted for fans. "If an establishment Republican said that, you'd go, 'whoa Nellie.' Rock stars and hip hop artists are cut some slack in American society."
Despite their attempts to suggest Nugent's comments don't reflect directly on the NRA, as a musician and conservative commentator, Nugent is to many the public face of the organization. He has had a longstanding relationship with the group, serving on its board of directors since 1995. In the group's 2013 board elections Nugent was second only to Fox News contributor Oliver North for most votes in favor of reelection.
After the 2012 meeting, Nugent drew the attention of the Secret Service for saying he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected as president. An NRA memo indicated that he was paid $50,000 by the group for a "spoken presentation" in 2011. Nugent has also recorded the song "I Am The NRA," which includes the lyrics: "If you hate tyrants and dictators and are ready to give freedom a whirl/Celebrate the NRA and the shot heard round the world."
Oliver North denied knowing about the "subhuman mongrel" comments during an interview at CPAC. He accused Media Matters of trying to instigate criticism from him. Questioned at CPAC's radio row, North said, "I'm not necessarily sure how to take your word for what he said since I didn't hear it I am not going to comment about it."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is fundraising for Republican Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo weeks after Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott caused a firestorm of controversy for campaigning with Nugent after the NRA figurehead made a racist comment about President Obama.
According to a March 4 article in The Colorado Independent, Nugent sent a fundraising e-mail on behalf of Tancredo that asked for donations of $25 or more to be entered into a raffle for an AR-15 assault weapon. In a letter addressed to "Real Americans," Nugent warned that "Barack Obama and his radical America-hating leftist goons are perilously close to taking away our guns and nullifying the Second Amendment." According to Nugent, "Tom Tancredo is running for Governor in one of the most anti-gun states in the union, so he urgently needs our help. That's why we're giving away a free AR-15 to a fellow gung-ho supporter." Nugent praised Tancredo for "opposing President Bush's wasteful spending spree, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and of course, insane infringements to our sacred Second Amendment rights."
Nugent also sent a fundraising email for Tancredo in December where he wrote, "[L]ike you, I'm terrified by where Barack Obama and his radical America hating leftist goons are leading this great country."
Nugent's presence on the campaign trial recently caused headaches for a different Republican gubernatorial candidate. In Texas, Greg Abbott received widespread criticism for hosting campaign events with Nugent, who is also a spokesman for the Outdoor Channel, after Nugent recently termed Obama a "subhuman mongrel." Abbott was also widely criticized for campaigning with someone who had made numerous profane and derogatory comments about women, including calling Hillary Clinton a "toxic cunt" and "worthless bitch." Even prominent members of the GOP condemned Nugent, with Arizona Sen. John McCain adding, "That kind of thing is beyond the pale, and I hope that our candidate down there learned a lesson." Nugent eventually offered a disingenuous apology -- "not necessarily to the president" -- for his "subhuman mongrel" comment and Abbott stated publicly he had no plans to hold future events with Nugent.
Nugent's fundraising comes as Tancredo -- known for his hardline stance on immigration -- recently reversed his longtime vow to never campaign in Spanish. Nugent, however, is well known for his hateful and violent rhetoric against immigrants.
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.
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.