For someone as casually and chronically racist, mean-spirited, and conspiracy-minded as Ted Nugent, Republican candidates sure do a weak job of denouncing him—especially when they are not actively seeking his endorsement for the highest office in the land.
During the 2012 presidential election, Team Romney actively sought and won the endorsement of the rock star and gun-toting, conservative political activist. It got awkward for the Romney campaign when the guitarist started hollering his usual absurdities about a totalitarian Obama, climaxing with a call to (figuratively!) “ride into that battlefield and chop [the Democrats’] heads off in November.”
This shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Well before endorsing Romney, Nugent had told President Obama to “suck on my machine gun” at a concert, for instance. He has for years been known to deliver public, far-right rantings. And in 2014, he was widely accused of racism after famously deeming Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”
This week, Nugent is again taking heat for a Facebook post that many read as, well, anti-Semitic. Basically, it looks like Nugent is concurring with a meme that the Jews want to take your guns away:
The Anti-Defamation League has called on Nugent to delete his post. And the National Rifle Association, for which the aging rocker is a board member, once again received some calls to finally disown The Nuge.
During this election season, the controversial musician’s preferred presidential candidates are Republicans Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. And Cruz in particular has been especially wobbly when it comes to distancing himself from the rock star.
“You know, I hear hope coming from Ted Cruz, and hope coming from Donald Trump,” Nugent gushed on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s show late last year. He also complained about how American schools do not have a “Braveheart movie day,” and how the Republican establishment is too busy “taking it in the ass” from all the “liberal Democrats.”
Nugent declared that Cruz “would make the best president we may have ever had,” though he stopped short of officially extending his endorsement to a particular candidate just yet.
Nugent’s infatuation with the Cruz and Trump campaigns has only hardened this year.
“Donald Trump is as close to Ted Nugent as you’re going to get in politics,” Nugent said on Newsmax TV last month. “My dream would be if Ted Cruz became president tonight. I really admire Ted Cruz, on many levels.”
Trump (another controversial figure who has also been accused, rather a lot, of being a racist) doesn’t say much about Nugent these days. Here’s Trump tweeting a defense of Nugent four years ago:
However, Cruz is a slightly different story. The 2016 Cruz campaign website has highlighted that the senator from Texas is Nugent’s “presidential favorite.” And in 2014, following the “subhuman mongrel” comments, Cruz was at best reluctant to speak ill of his pro-gun, pro-Republican celebrity ally.
“Those sentiments there, of course, I don’t agree with them. You've never heard me say such a thing and nor would I,” Cruz told CNN.
But when asked if he would rule out campaigning with Nugent (who is popular in Texas), Cruz refused to do so.
“I will note, there are reasons Ted Nugent—people listen to him, which is that he has been fighting passionately for Second Amendment rights,” Cruz continued. “And [the Obama] administration has demonstrated an incredible hostility to the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Cruz also noted that he doesn’t “hang out with Ted Nugent”—though Nugent himself has stated otherwise. “I’m contacted all the time, I work close with Ted Cruz who is a great patriot, a great statesman,” he said in late 2013.
The Cruz campaign did not respond to a request for comment regarding whether or not that “close” relationship existed, or still exists. The campaign also did not say whether this latest controversy would now convince the senator to rule out campaigning with The Nuge.