The fact that just seeing the words “Ted Nugent” tends to stir strong feelings in the reader probably the best thing in Ted Nugent’s life right now—except maybe for the chance to play “Stranglehold” to a screaming audience whenever he wants, or perhaps going bow-hunting. Still, to say that the Motor City Madman enjoys courting controversy would be an understatement.
Nugent invites controversy wherever he goes, which means that just the fact that he’ll be performing and speaking at League City’s Salute to Heroes Patriot Dinner and Concert, benefitting the New Braunfels non-profit Operation: Finally Home (which builds houses for wounded veterans or the surviving families of the fallen) has already sparked criticism. The Galveston County Daily News has published over a dozen stories, columns, and letters about the Nuge’s appearance at the event (which is paid for, in part, by taxpayers, though Nugent is donating his time), with criticism ranging from the man’s comments on President Obama (most recently: “a subhuman mongrel”) and undocumented immigrants (“bloodsuckers” who should be treated “like indentured servants”) to questions about Nugent’s own military service—or lack thereof—during the Vietnam War.
Those questions challenge whether Nugent is an appropriate guest at an event for veterans, given comments he made to High Times magazine back in 1977 about how he avoided being drafted:
Nugent: Ted was a young boy, appearing to be a hippie but quite opposite in fact, working hard and playing hard, playing rock and roll like a deviant. People would question my sanity, I played so much. So I got my notice to be in the draft. Do you think I was gonna lay down my guitar and go play army? Give me a break! I was busy doin’ it to it. I had a career Jack. If I was walkin’ around, hippying down, getting’ loaded and pickin’ my ass like your common curs, I’d say “Hey yeah, go in the army. Beats the poop out of scuffin’ around in the gutters.” But I wasn’t a gutter dog. I was a hard workin’, mother****in’ rock and roll musician.
In the interview, Nugent goes on to detail how he convinced the Selective Service board to classify him as 4-F in (gross) detail, a story that involves self-defecation and snorting crystal meth. Fact-checking website Snopes verified that Nugent received the classification and provided additional context for the interview, but couldn’t confirm the other parts of the story, which Nugent says he made up. And, to be certain, wildly exaggerating a story to an interviewer for his own amusement certainly wouldn’t be out of character for Nugent, whose propensity for such things has even been satirized in The Onion.
Regardless of whether or not Nugent avoided the draft during Vietnam, though, it’s probably safe to say that his appearance at the event wouldn’t be a flashpoint for local controversy if he weren’t so outspoken in spouting rhetoric designed specifically to inflame people. Questioning whether inviting a guy who calls the President of the United States a “subhuman mongrel” to speak at an event paid for by taxpayers, even if he’s not being paid for whatever inflammatory statements he eventually ends up making, isn’t out-of-bounds. (Imagine the letters to the editor had Natalie Maines been invited to speak and perform at a similar event ten years ago?)
Nugent, of course, has the right to say whatever he likes, and his critics likewise have the right to call him a racist, sexist, homophobic asshole. Regardless of which way you swing on this, one thing is certain: Ted Nugent is loving the attention.