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.”
But Mori stopped short of cancelling Nugent's appearance, at least as of Monday, claiming he would lose money and still have to pay Nugent a fee of more than $50,000.
“All things being equal I wouldn't bring in a guy who is aggravating people, that is not my intention,” he said last week. “It seems like this thing has kind of ballooned in the last couple months.”
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.
Blade President and General Manager Joseph Zerbey has not responded to requests for comment, while Blade Editor Kurt Franck has declined to offer an opinion.