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Ted Nugent, Wendy Davis and CNN: The politics of inflammatory speech

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FILE: Musician and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent addresses a seminar at the National Rifle Association's 140th convention in Pittsburgh. (AP)

There’s no shortage of manufactured outrage in the political world, but sometimes the outrage is utterly warranted.

What Ted Nugent said about President Obama is so far beyond the pale that it needs to be called out. The more interesting question is whether a candidate who allies himself with Nugent should be held responsible for the incendiary language.

Nugent, after all, is an aging rock-n-roller who traffics in over-the-top talk. That makes him something of a media magnet, even though his role is basically that of celebrity provocateur.

It was at a gun show a few weeks ago that Nugent called Obama not just a “chimpanzee,” but “a Chicago, Communist- raised, Communist-educated, Communist-nurtured, subhuman mongrel.”

He can brand the president a commie if he wants, but such phrases as chimp and subhuman mongrel are truly offensive. 

[UPDATE: Nugent apologized Friday morning on the Ben Ferguson radio show. According to Mediaite, "the rocker branded his words as 'street fighter terminology,' and vowed to 'elevate his vernacular' to the level of prominent Texas Republicans like Abbott and Rick Perry."] 

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer teed off on Greg Abbott, the Republican running for Texas governor with Nugent’s highly visible support. “Nugent's presence hit a sour note with a lot of people,” Blitzer said. “They say Texans deserve better than a candidate who would align himself with someone like Nugent who offered a hate-filled assessment of the president.” He added that the phrase subhuman mongrel is similar to a German word that is "what the Nazis called Jews ... to justify the genocide of the Jewish community."

Nugent took to Twitter to liken CNN to the Nazis’ propaganda chief: “CNN Joseph Goebbells [sic] Saul Alinsky propaganda ministry mongrels.” Nugent later cancelled a planned appearance on Erin Burnett’s CNN show. Blitzer followed up on his program by questioning Nugent’s use of the phrase “blood brother” when he introduced Abbott.

But is it fair to hold Abbott accountable for a supporter’s rant? This is an old game in politics, where critics demand that the politician condemn something that an ally said. John McCain repeatedly apologized in 2008 when he was introduced by radio talker Bill Cunningham, who referred to “Barack Hussein Obama.”

Abbott, for his part, hasn’t distanced himself from the singer. He says Nugent is campaigning with him to expose his opponent Wendy Davis’s weak stance on gun rights. He told reporters he wasn’t aware of Nugent’s past statements, according to the Dallas Morning News—a bit of a dodge since he obviously must be aware of them now.

Davis is also getting in on the action. In a fundraising letter reported by Politico, he says: “Ted Nugent calls Greg Abbott his ‘blood brother.’ I call their alliance repulsive. I find Ted Nugent disgusting, and I find it disgusting that Greg Abbott is sharing a stage with him.”

So both candidates are making hay over Ted Nugent. 

Meanwhile, one voice on the right is speaking out. Republican Sen. Rand Paul tweeted: "Ted Nugent's derogatory description of President Obama is offensive and has no place in politics. He should apologize." 

And On Guns.com, S.H. Blannelberry defends Nugent:

“I’m willing to bet that Nugent used the historically-embedded phrase to do what he does best: raise hell!

“Remember, Nugent is a performer first and foremost. That’s what he does best. And in the political arena, with the cameras rolling and the lights on, he’s going to put on a show. He’s going to be outrageous. He’s going to use words and phrases that purposely rattle the cages of liberals and progressives.”

Well, I look forward to Nugent's next appearance on CNN. 

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz. 

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