Claims that Ted Nugent is a racist simply have no merit
Mark Twain once wrote that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
In the wake of the Gov. Rick Perry inaugural ball featuring Ted Nugent, we may have a case of lies born in Austin that have now made their way across America, fueled by the recklessness of race-baiters out to score cheap political points.
Some would have you believe that Mr. Perry's inclusive inauguration speech was made a mockery by activist rock star Ted Nugent's intolerant remarks from the stage.
But tap the brakes. That narrative, shouted across wire services and onto newspaper pages, TV screens and Web sites around the world, seems to be wholly without basis.
I have spoken to several people at the event and several more who knew people there. I have yet to hear one quote that serves as an example of what Hearst Newspapers reporter Lisa Sandberg cited in her article. She wrote that Ted Nugent was "shouting unflattering remarks about undocumented immigrants, including kicking them out of the country, according to people who were in attendance."
Oh, really? Funny that not one of those offended souls was willing to go on record with an actual quote of what Mr. Nugent said.
Usually, when Ted raises hackles, there are quotes. A few years ago at a Houston concert, he suggested that anyone coming to America refusing to learn English can "get the [bleep] out of the country."
Predictably, critics suggested that this remark was based on distaste for Latinos. Curious criticism, since at the time, the Nugent band included the thoroughly Mexican Marco Mendoza on bass.
But why examine a man's actual life when you can get some licks in?
Thirty years ago, Ted Nugent's fame stemmed from multiplatinum albums and massive sold-out arenas. He still tours tirelessly, but he's more likely to attract attention these days from his activism, on behalf of hunting interests, gun owner's rights and our troops.
That makes him a convenient devil for critics who don't have the guts to argue his views on merit. Thus, when Mr. Nugent waxes occasionally from the rock stage on issues of immigration, it will usually contain enthusiastic suggestions that all who come here should embrace the things that unite and elevate our nation – a common language, a love of freedom and gratitude for our armed forces.
One might fairly ask: Did Ted say something that might have just struck someone wrong? "I did not utter the word immigrants; I did not utter the word language; I did not go there," Mr. Nugent insisted to me this week. "If there's anything I know how to do after playing to crowds for so many years, it's adjust and adapt."
In other words, he knows the difference between playing to a raucous crowd at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth and an inaugural ball.
What he did do is wear the same rebel flag shirt he wore at Billy Bob's, imagery that falls hard on some black people. Fair enough, but anyone recoiling at that should examine the heart and life of the man wearing it.
Mr. Nugent is no confederacy fetishist yearning for the good old days of slavery.
"That's a rebel flag, and I'm a rebel," says the man who dedicates a large part of his career success to James Brown and the soul artists who "showed us white people how to entertain."
No more vagueness. No more innuendo. Until someone documents a moment of actual hurtful racism from the stage that night, two conclusions are in order, and I base them on objective judgment and personal familiarity.
First, anyone suggesting that Ted Nugent is a racist is a liar. Second, anyone suggesting Mr. Perry invited him as a wink to some lingering racism among his voter base is also a liar.
There is a perverse irony in ideological bullies slandering political adversaries as intolerant. Their excesses must not go unchallenged.
Mark Davis is heard weekdays on News/Talk WBAP-AM (820) and nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. WBAP airtime is 9 a.m. to noon. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.