Two days after National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent took to Facebook to blame a dozen prominent American Jews for gun control, the organization tried to insulate itself from Nugent’s anti-Semitic remarks. A spokeswoman for the NRA told the Washington Post that “individual board members do not speak” for the organization. But throughout the NRA’s 21-year relationship with Nugent, it has seemed comfortable having the aging musician publicly represent the group, compensating him for his services and empowering him as a mouthpiece.
The NRA’s 76-member board includes a number of minor celebrities whose roles are largely ceremonial. There’s former “Magnum, P.I.” star Tom Selleck; R. Lee Ermey, the drill sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket;” and Karl Malone, the Hall of Fame basketball player. But Nugent’s role is much more substantial.
Since he was elected to the NRA board in 1995, he has served as one of the main attractions at the group’s marquee events, appearing at every NRA annual convention for at least the past dozen years. In 2010, Brad Kozak, a writer for the gun enthusiast website The Truth About Guns, covered that year’s NRA National Convention, a three-day affair in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The Nuge was all over the NRA confab,” Kozak wrote, “speaking, signing books, more speaking, and plugging his latest tome, Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto.” He added that, after Nugent gave a presentation, “fans lined up as far as the eye could see, for the chance to get up close and personal with His Nugeness.”
The NRA also has had a financial relationship with Nugent. In 2012, at the annual meeting of NRA members, a memo was circulated detailing payments made the previous year to board members for a variety of services, including legal work and “independent” contracting. The watchdog group Media Matters got hold of the document and published it online. According to the memo, the year before, eight board members had received payments in excess of $2,000. Nugent, for his part, “received $50,000 plus travel expenses for a spoken presentation at the 2011 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits.” Additionally, the organization paid Nugent’s television production company $40,000 to “air a 30-second commercial spot” promoting the NRA on his reality TV show, “Spirit of the Wild.”
More so than most board members, Nugent regularly appears on NRA news programs, where he echoes the group’s key talking points. On a radio show in 2011, for instance, he referred to federal agents as “jack-booted thugs,” repeating an infamous line penned in the mid-1990s by Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s executive vice president. LaPierre’s statement, which appeared in a fundraising letter sent out to the group’s 3.5 million members, prompted George H.W. Bush to relinquish his lifetime membership.
The following year, in an appearance on the NRA’s “Cam & Co.,” Nugent admonished gun reform advocates. “I believe,” he said, “if you hate the NRA, if you hate guns, if you hate Ted Nugent, then you clearly hate America.”
Nugent’s proselytizing extends far beyond the borders of the organization’s network. At a 2010 Tea Party rally in South Dakota, he told attendees that non-NRA members are barred from joining his band, driving his tour bus, or accompanying him on hunting trips.
“I’ve fixed everybody in my world,” he said. “Have you?”
On Twitter, he preaches to some 274,000 followers, telling them, “I am the NRA,” which also happens to be the title of an ’80s-style speed metal anthem he released in 2008.
“If you hate tyrants and dictators and are ready to give freedom a whirl,” he sings, “Celebrate the NRA and the shot heard round the world.”
The chorus is straightforward. “I am the NRA,” Nugent reminds listeners. “I am the NRA.”
[Photo: AP Photo/Morry Gash]