National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent compared himself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks in a column for conspiracy website WND where he celebrated the right to free speech. The NRA and its representatives frequently compare their movement to the civil rights struggle, claiming that restrictions on guns are similar to the conditions of segregation or racial discrimination.
In an October 30 column, Nugent called Parks his “hero” for exercising her First Amendment rights and referenced his celebrity as a guitar player to write, “I'm Rosa Parks with a Gibson” :
Heavily armed with whatever media bully pulpit I can muster, I exercise my First Amendment rights like my hero Rosa Parks who refused to sit at the back of the bus when that numb-nut law existed. I'm Rosa Parks with a Gibson.
Parks, who died in 2005, was a civil rights activist best known for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white passenger. She was honored by Congress in 1999 as the “first lady of civil rights” and the “mother of the freedom movement” and was a 1996 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Nugent previously claimed in a January interview with WND that “the law-abiding gun owners of America, will be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus.” Civil rights leaders called those comments a “very disingenuous comparison,” “offensive” and a “far-fetched fantasy.”
In his new column, Nugent addressed controversy over outrageous and inflammatory comments made by University of Kansas professor David Guth about NRA members in response to the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shooting. In keeping with the theme of his column that “Free Speech Rocks,” Nugent defended Guth's right to make offensive comments but also compared the professor to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels:
In the latest example of intellectual dishonesty, David Guth, a University of Kansas journalism professor, tweeted after the Washington, D.C., Naval Yard shooting that, “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.”
Guth has a right to believe his nonsense. Kansas University students also have the right to refuse to take his Joseph Goebbels 101 propaganda ministry classes and actually learn something of worth and merit.
Nugent's comparison between himself and Parks is inapt for many reasons, perhaps none more so than the NRA board member's history of racially inflammatory commentary.
Following the July acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges that he unlawfully killed unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Nugent attacked the African-American community and endorsed racial profiling. The controversy began with a July 14 column for Rare where he referred to Martin as a “dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe.” Then, during a July 16 appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, Nugent claimed 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” and expressed the belief that racism in America ceased to exist by the 1970s. That month, Nugent also said the African-American community has a “mindless tendency to violence” and suggested that African-Americans should be profiled in the same way members of a community might profile a dangerous breed of dog that had been attacking children.
Nugent has also attacked civil rights leaders, accusing Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson of speaking “ebonic mumbo-jumbo” in a February 10 column for WND.
An ardent defender of the confederate flag who once wrote in a Washington Times column, “I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War,” Nugent's history of inflammatory commentary on race is lengthy. In a 1995 media appearance, Nugent claimed that “real America” is comprised of “working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning.” In a 1994 interview, he called African-American rappers on MTV “big uneducated greasy black mongrels.”
The NRA often attempts to co-opt the civil rights movement to advance its position.
During a May 4 keynote speech at the NRA's annual meeting in Houston, Texas, conservative commentator Glenn Beck adopted the mantle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in telling the audience to join him in a passive resistance movement that he compared to lunch counter protests.
Beck told the audience, “Our right to keep and bear arms will not be infringed. We will follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we will follow the footsteps of Frederick Douglas, Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, [David] Ben-Gurion, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, hear me now. Hear me now. We shall overcome.”
In January, past NRA president and current lobbyist Marion Hammer compared the prospect of a ban on assault weapons to racial discrimination, stating, “banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics.”
NRA News programming has also compared the conditions of gun ownership to segregation. In August 2012, NRA News host Cam Edwards criticized a University of Colorado policy that would require students who keep guns on campus to live in a designated dormitory by saying, “Segregated dorms. Yes. How progressive. We are back to segregation now.”