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.
From the February 25 edition of KFTK's The Dana Show:
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Just seconds after urging public officials to avoid name-calling, CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson falsely labeled Susan Rice a liar in order to inexplicably shield Ted Nugent from further scrutiny for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel."
Ferguson appeared on New Day Tuesday to react to NRA board member Nugent's so-called apology, first offered on Ferguson's radio show last week, and again, mockingly, on CNN Monday. During that CNN appearance, Nugent called Obama a "liar" and suggested that the president is a criminal.
After claiming that Nugent's apology was sufficient, and pleading with public officials to eschew name calling and stick to the facts, Ferguson leveled the false accusation that former UN Ambassador Susan Rice "lied" to the American people about the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi. When CNN host Chris Cuomo asked whether it was appropriate for Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott to stand behind Nugent despite his unacceptable rhetoric, Ferguson invoked Benghazi and argued that Abbott's loyalty to Nugent was no different than Obama's loyalty to Susan Rice, whom he called a liar.
"You had Susan Rice that came out and lied about four Americans dying and the ambassador of the United States of America on the anniversary of 9-11, and insulted those who died and their families by giving them a fake story about protestors," Ferguson claimed. While Cuomo rejected the analogy, he agreed it was wrong to lie to the American people and that the "situation needed to be investigated."
Ferguson's claim is rooted in the right-wing hoax that the White House dispatched Rice to mislead the American people by claiming that the September 2012 attack was sparked by protests over an anti-Muslim YouTube video that was sweeping the region. But the reality is that Rice's comments were consistent with what the U.S. intelligence community said was their best assessment at the time, a position that has been supported by independent investigations.
A January report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that there was intelligence linking the Benghazi attacks to anger over the anti-Muslim YouTube video, consistent with what Rice said when discussing the attacks days after they occurred on several Sunday morning news shows. After a year of exhaustive investigation, New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick reported that the protests were fueled in part by reaction to the video. Administration and agency emails that have been in the public record for the past year demonstrated that it was the intelligence community that said their best assessment at the time Rice discussed the attacks indicated that they were in reaction to a YouTube video.
But on the right, "Benghazi" has never been about preventing future tragedies, or learning the truth about what happened that night. The campaign to politicize the tragedy has created a get-out-of-jail-free card. It's the one word conservatives can always use to get out of a jam or change the conversation. Inside the bubble, truth doesn't matter. Because Benghazi.
Facing widespread denouncement for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," Ted Nugent is promising to stop calling people names -- but with his promise still hanging in the air, Nugent labeled Obama a "liar" and suggested that the president is a criminal.
The NRA board member's promise came during an appearance on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, where Nugent attempted to mitigate the firestorm surrounding his description of Obama as a "subhuman mongrel" and his subsequent (hollow) apology, which were criticized by politicians of both parties and some in the media. Nugent was originally scheduled to discuss this firestorm with Burnett last week, but, citing an illness, he canceled the appearance -- after comparing CNN to a Nazi propagandist.
On February 24, Burnett began the interview by asking Nugent to confirm that he apologized to the president for his remark. Nugent dodged the question, instead simply saying that he was sorry for "being part of that political discourse" with "street language." The interview went downhill from there.
Nugent claimed that "the president is intentionally disassembling the greatest quality of life in the history of the world" before concluding, "the president's a bad man."
According to Nugent, there was nothing racial about his "subhuman mongrel" attack. Nugent alleged that such an idea is "crap," as there is "not a racist bone in body." (For reference, Nugent previously argued that African-Americans could fix "the black problem" if they just put their "heart and soul into being honest, law-abiding, [and] delivering excellence at every move in your life." He's also written that "I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War" and that "black communities across America" have a "mindless tendency to violence.")
From the February 24 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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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.
From the February 23 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the February 21 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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From the February 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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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.
While Ted Nugent's reference to President Barack Obama as a "subhuman mongrel" has received strong criticism from all corners of the media and political landscape, two major organizations with key ties to Nugent -- the National Rifle Association (NRA) and The Outdoor Channel -- have yet to weigh in on the controversy.
Nugent is an NRA board member and perhaps the group's most-well known public advocate. He serves as a spokesman for the Outdoor Channel, where he also hosts a hunting show. Last month, Nugent told Guns.com that President Obama is a "subhuman mongrel" and argued that he and other liberal politicians should be punished for treason.
The offensive remark drew new attention this past week after Nugent was scheduled to appear at a campaign event with Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.
Since then, Nugent and Abbott have received harsh reactions from numerous Republican leaders, including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Rick Perry. Other media critics, including Howard Kurtz of Fox News and CNN's Wolf Blitzer, have also condemned the language.
Nugent offered a disingenuous, half-hearted apology for his comments during an appearance today on conservative Ben Ferguson's radio show.
Despite their close ties to Nugent, neither the NRA nor The Outdoor Channel have weighed in on the matter. Media Matters has contacted The Outdoor Channel twice in the past week about the situation with no response, while the NRA did not respond to a request for comment today.
The NRA has consistently supported Nugent and chosen not to criticize him in the past for other offensive and racist comments. The Outdoor Channel has also been approached by Media Matters about other offensive Nugent comments and made clear it has no interest in criticizing the rocker.
The lack of action from the two organizations raises the question of whether they approve of Nugent's offensive commentary.
At the very least, their lack of action indicates an apparent lack of understanding about why Nugent's words are sparking objections, and at worst a lack of concern about how his views hurt their public image.
From the February 21 edition of WBAP's The Ben Ferguson Show:
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