By André Coleman and Carl Kozlowski
Nearly 1,600 people have signed a Change.org petition calling on officials at a Pasadena nightclub to cancel a concert appearance by a controversial rock star who once alluded to shooting President Barack Obama.
The petition was started by the group Pasadena Against Ted Nugent.
“Ted Nugent does not reflect Pasadena values and should not be paid to spew his message of hate in our city!” the petition reads. Many of the people who signed the petition are from out of state. “Tell Nugent and the management of The Rose where you stand!”
Nugent is the latest in a growing list of far-right Republicans being boycotted for their political views.
Appearances by columnist Ann Coulter and former Breitbart News reporter Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley were canceled earlier this year after students boycotted their appearances.
Nugent, who started out in the 1960s with the Amboy Dukes, then went solo, recording such hits as “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold,” and eventually joined the rock super group Damn Yankees in 1989, is scheduled to perform at The Rose on July 2. This will be his second appearance at the venue. Officials at The Rose said there was no controversy when he appeared there last year.
The owner of the nightclub said the club is not involved in politics, but only acts as a showcase for talent.
“We never infringe on anyone’s right to free speech, regardless of which side they fall,” said Lance Sterling. “As a venue, we deal with artists who are very opinionated, one way or the other. There are many artists who are controversial on both sides of the fence. We are just presenters of talent.”
A gun rights activist and right-wing supporter, Nugent dove into a political tirade during a concert in 2007, attacking then-candidate Barack Obama and calling several prominent women in the Democratic Party whores, including Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Democratic US Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
“Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun,” Nugent said during the concert as he wielded two assault rifles onstage. “Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”
Nugent continued his tirade by attacking Feinstein and fellow US Sen. Barbara Boxer, who has since been replaced by former state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“Since I’m in California, how about Barbara Boxer, she might want to suck on my machine gun,” Nugent exhorted. “And Dianne Feinstein, ride one of these you worthless whore.”
Despite the statements made by Nugent while wielding the assault rifles, the Secret Service — which guards the president and investigates threats against the commander in chief and members of Congress — later determined that Nugent had not actually threatened anyone.
“Everyone has a right to be heard. I’m upset when people are shouted down by those who disagree with them,” said Bob Fisher, who owns the Ice House Comedy Club. “If you don’t like what they’re saying, don’t go to the concert, don’t watch the television show, don’t go to the rally. The idea is that I don’t like the idea of censorship. People should be heard, regardless of their viewpoint. The Rose has a right to book Ted Nugent, and if you don’t like what he espouses, don’t go to the concert. But don’t stop other people from going to the concert.”
Pasadena Councilman and Vice Mayor John Kennedy, who worked on Obama’s and Clinton’s campaigns, said he supported Nugent’s right to free speech, but also added he was concerned about Nugent appearing at the venue.
“Artists and people have a First Amendment right that must be protected,” Kennedy said. “However, when hate crosses the line into ‘hate speech,’ coupled with the intent to produce violence, people of goodwill, Republicans, Democrats and decline to state, must not condone or support such behavior. There is no room in venues owned by the people of Pasadena for hate speech.”
Local Tea Party leader Michael Alexander said that shutting down artists based on their views hurts society.
“There is a disappointing tendency of both parties to attempt to suppress the speech of the other and whether we are attempting to suppress Nugent or a radical leftist, such enterprises are counterproductive and injurious to political discourse in our society,” said Alexander.
In April, Berkeley officials canceled Coulter’s appearance amid threats of violence. The Berkeley College Republicans, which invited Coulter to speak, withdrew its support along with the Young America’s Foundation after the atmosphere grew too hostile.
“It’s a sad day for free speech,” Coulter told The New York Times.
An appearance by Yiannopoulos erupted into violence in February, forcing the controversial British activist to leave the campus without speaking.
However, the issue of potentially incendiary speech is not just impacting Republicans.
Political commentator Bill Maher came under fire two weeks ago after he referred to himself as a “house nigger” on his HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher.” The incident led to calls for his removal, but so far HBO is standing by the comedian commentator, a once-frequent guest at Fisher’s Ice House.
This past week, rapper Ice Cube appeared on his show and accepted Maher’s apology for the use of the word, before scolding him for using it.
Last month comedian Kathy Griffin received widespread criticism after she posed in a picture with a fake decapitated head fashioned to look like President Donald Trump. Griffin, who has co-hosted CNN’s annual New Year’s celebration show alongside anchor Anderson Cooper, was fired by the network. Also fired by CNN was Reza Azlan, host of the network show “Believer” after he posted profane anti-Trump Tweets.
Venues in Albuquerque, Staten Island, Napa and New Jersey canceled scheduled appearances by Griffin. Days after she lost the jobs, Griffin tearfully apologized for the photo.
But while Maher and Griffin have apologized, so far Nugent and others on the far right have stood by their words.
Nugent even went further, comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler when he stated the president is like a “German Nazi in 1938 pretending to respect the Jews and then going home and putting on his brown shirt and forcing his neighbors onto a train to be burned to death.”
Nugent later said there was no comparison to his words and the Griffin photo and claimed he never actually threatened anyone. Despite his previous statements, he was invited to visit the White House earlier this year.
“This is not an assault on the First Amendment,” said Alexander. “The First Amendment protects us from government censoring our speech. I don’t think they are advocating the government take some action against Nugent or The Rose. I think what they are advocating is private parties should boycott or interfere with his speech. I don’t think we have much to fear from Nugent’s speech, since there are many outlets including the Pasadena Weekly who are there to respond to his message. That is a free society.”
Writer Kevin Dunn contributed to this report.