I'm loath to write about Ted Nugent because I don't want to add to the attention that he receives for his hateful remarks. But since the press continues to place the Nuge in the headlines, it's worth noting how poorly these headlines have communicated what actually happened. All but a handful of media outlets reported that Nugent had apologized to the president for calling him a "subhuman mongrel." But his statement was not a true apology by any stretch of the imagination.
The offensive remark for which Nugent supposedly apologized occurred on Jan. 17 at a yearly gun industry trade event called the SHOT Show (for Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade). During an interview with Guns.com, Nugent said, “I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised, communist educated, communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.” He also said, "I think America will be America again when Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, Dick Durbin, Michael Bloomberg and all of the liberal Democrats are in jail facing the just due punishment that their treasonous acts are clearly apparent." He called Obama a "chimpanzee." And, since he's an equal-opportunity offender, he also described Hillary Clinton as having "spare scrotums."
According to many media outlets, Ted Nugent indeed apologized on Feb. 21, during a radio interview on WBAP's "Ben Ferguson Show." Of course, it's hardly surprising that Fox News framed what Nugent said as an apology. (Though it is amusing that the comment for which the apology was issued was not reported on by Fox.) But CNN presented the comments from the Ferguson show the same way: "Nugent apologizes for using term 'subhuman mongrel.'" The Washington Post reported, "Ted Nugent apologizes to Obama." The Hill claimed, "Nugent apologizes for calling Obama 'subhuman mongrel.'" The Washington Times headline read, "Ted Nugent apologizes for Obama 'mongrel' comment"; The Dallas Morning News wrote, "Ted Nugent apologizes for calling President Obama a 'subhuman mongrel.'" The Wall Street Journal proclaimed, "Ted Nugent Apologizes for 'Subhuman Mongrel' Remark." "Ted Nugent Apologizes for Calling Obama 'Subhuman Mongrel'" was how Business Insider put it. NBC said, "Rocker Ted Nugent Apologizes for Obama Comment" while Politico said, "Ted Nugent sorry for mongrel remark." I could go on, but we don't have all day.
The only problem is that Nugent didn't truly apologize. Here's what he actually said: “I do apologize, not necessarily to the president, but on behalf of much better men than myself like Rick Perry, Greg Abbott. [...] I apologize for using the street fighter terminology of 'subhuman mongrel' instead of just using more understandable language such as 'violator of his oath to the Constitution,' ‘the liar that he is.'" Reading this as an actual apology totally misses the point.
In case the insincerity of Nugent's apology wasn't already clear, two days after his non-apology, a comma-shy Nugent tweeted, "So Obama called blacks mongrels on the View. Well well well." Of course, Nugent and Obama were coming from slightly different places. Nugent was using a combination of words of which Hitler himself was fond. And he was describing a man who is biracial. Obama, however, did not accompany the word mongrel with any dehumanizing language. And he was basically describing, well, everyone in the entire world: “We [African Americans] are sort of a mongrel people ... I mean we’re all kinds of mixed up ... That’s actually true of white people as well, but we just know more about it.”
To be fair, many of the publications cited above did include Nugent's whole statement and raise the question of to whom and for what he was apologizing. But, given that 80 percent of people will read headlines but not the rest of an article, isn't accuracy in headlines especially important? Luckily, some journalists managed to crack the Nugentian code and deconstruct the apology into what it really signified: "I'm sorry this is bad for the politicians I like, so I'll say sorry for calling the treasonous liar in the White House a subhuman mongrel." So, hats off to the Dallas Morning News: "Ted Nugent issues partial apology for calling Obama 'subhuman mongrel" ; the L.A. Times: "Ted Nugent apologizes, sort of, for calling Obama 'mongrel'"; Mediaite: "Ted Nugent (Kind Of) Apologizes for 'Sub-Human Mongrel' Obama remark"; and the Christian Science Monitor: "Ted Nugent apologizes to President Obama. Sincere?"
Nugent, for his part, seems genuinely incapable of stopping himself from saying certain things. During a CNN appearance Monday, Nugent said, "I'm going to stop calling people names." At first, his promise didn't seem that sincere. When host Erin Burnett asked if he was really going to refrain from name-calling, the rocker responded, "Live on 'Erin Burnett OutFront,' CNN, Ted Nugent, remember the Alamo, February 24, 2014, I'm not going to call people names anymore. However, I have a little escape clause here, because when I'm onstage singing 'Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,' would you give me permission to go overboard on occasion? Please, tell me you will." But at the end of the interview, Ted said he wasn't joking around about his pledge to refrain from name-calling: "No I'm not making light, very serious, very serious." And Nugent honored his moratorium for an entire 20 seconds before saying, "I'm going to get right to the meat of the matter, where our president is a liar, he lies about you can keep your doctor period, over and over again, he lies about Benghazi, he's lying about the IRS. So I won't call names anymore ..."
The fact that Nugent couldn't restrain himself from calling the president a "liar" suggests he may not really be ready to quit name-calling. And why should he? He can say something racist, issue a fake apology, and have the media treat it as a real one.