On March 10, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent once again generated bad publicity for his organization. After getting into an argument on his Facebook page with a commentator named Jorge Freixa over the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, Nugent referred to the man as a “beanochimp” and told him to die.
The term appears to be a derogatory reference to Freixa’s Hispanic name, and comes one month after Nugent, also on his Facebook page, smeared a dozen prominent American Jews for promoting tougher gun laws. That February 8 posting triggered an uproar, causing both gun rights activists and civil rights groups to call for Nugent’s removal from the NRA’s leadership. In a statement to the Washington Post, the group declined to condemn the remarks but attempted to distance itself from the musician, claiming that “individual board members do not speak” for the NRA.
The public record disagrees: Next to Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, Nugent is arguably the public figure most closely associated with the gun-rights organization. He has served on the board since 1995, and has appeared as a main attraction at every annual NRA convention for at least the last 12 years. The group has paid Nugent thousands for his work, and often brings him on its news programs as a guest. In 2008, he released a song aptly titled, “I am the NRA.”
Nugent’s history of bigotry complicates a long-term challenge for the organization he represents. Minorities are ascendant in the United States, and tend to favor more gun regulation. The United States Census Bureau estimates that by roughly 2020 “more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group.” Over the next three decades, the Hispanic population alone is expected to expand by 86 percent, and claim almost a third of the country’s population. According to a 2014 Pew survey, more than 60 percent of registered Hispanic voters said they preferred gun safety to the rights of gun owners. Over 70 percent of registered African American voters said the same thing.
The NRA has made half-hearted attempts to broaden its appeal with minorities. In 2013, the gun group introduced the world to its newest public figure, Colion Noir, a Youtube star who referred to himself as an “urban gun enthusiast.” On The Blaze, a conservative website, a reporter marked the occasion with an exciting pronouncement. “The media is going to have a hard time stereotyping the National Rifle Association … after the organization just announced its latest contributor to NRA News,” he wrote. The reporter mentioned some of Noir’s popular videos. One was called, “Why Are Black ‘Leaders’ Anti-gun?”
But whatever added credibility Noir might have given the NRA with minorities was undercut by an ugly slur flung by Nugent the following year, when he publicly called President Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel.” Around the same time, an old video surfaced in which he suggested that apartheid wasn’t “that cut-and-dry,” adding: “All men are not created equal.” Last June, he celebrated the use of the word “nigger” in a column on the right-leaning website WND. He denounced naysayers as the “epitome of political correctness gone mad.”
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]