April 19, 2012
LZ Granderson, a regular CNN contributor, has called for locking up Ted Nugent following his public criticism of Obama.
“Not because he doesn’t like Barack Obama but because he got up in front of a group of people and insinuated he would attempt to assassinate Obama if he’s re-elected. Or let’s put it this way: A man with a truckload of guns has threatened the life of our president while the country’s at war,” he writes.
On Wednesday, Nugent said he did not call for violence against Obama at an NRA convention held earlier this week. “Every reference I made, whether it’s a shot across the bow or targeting the enemy, it always ended the sentence with ‘in November at the voter booth,'” Nugent told Glenn Beck.
Nugent also told Beck he plans to meet with the Secret Service following a concert performance in Ardmore, Oklahoma, on Thursday. “We actually have heard from the Secret Service, and they have a duty, and I salute them. I support them and I’m looking forward to our meeting tomorrow,” Nugent said. “I’m sure it will be a fine gathering backstage in Oklahoma.”
Granderson, who was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary, said he believes the rocker may attempt violence against the president:
Nugent’s words were: “If Barack Obama is elected, I’ll either be dead or in jail this time next year,” which sounds to me like he’s open to directing his disapproval of Obama in a way that is violent and unlawful. When you see that statement next to Nugent comparing Obama and his colleagues to coyotes that needed to be shot, as well as the need to “ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November,” I don’t see how that rant cannot be looked upon as a threat on the president’s life.
Grandersen compared Nugent to Walter Bagdasarian, a man from the San Diego area who used the “N-word” to describe Obama on a Yahoo message board and said that he “will have a 50 cal in the head soon.”
A federal court ruled last year that Bagdasarian had not threatened the president and his comments were protected by the First Amendment.
Grandersen finds Bagdasarian’s strong political language a “bit unsettling, especially nowadays, when we have almost as many guns in the U.S. as we do people — the highest rate of any country in the world of civilian gun ownership.” He writes that he is not “anti-gun” but worries that somebody will get “ticked off, get liquored up and then go attend a rally.”
He then cites the Constitution in order to make the argument that Nugent’s First Amendment right should be violated:
Allowing people to threaten the life of a president, particularly during time of war, is not protecting free speech as much as it is dangerously close to treason as it is defined in Article III of the Constitution. We have an agreed-upon system to replace elected officials we don’t like. It’s called democracy. If people don’t like the president, they can say that. They can vote against them. They can run. They can leave. But they shouldn’t be allowed to go on the Internet or radio and threaten his or her life.
Grandersen concludes his op-ed by sideswiping the Second Amendment. “I’m not surprised to hear such comments from Nugent,” he writes. “But I am surprised that in a country with 106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, 83 million shotguns and four assassinated presidents, we don’t take such talk more seriously.”
The First Amendment is first amendment of the Bill of Rights because the founders understood that liberty would be seriously diminished if the people were not free to express their political opinions, including strongly worded opinions.
Obviously, Ted Nugent was not calling for the murder of Obama and it should be clear that he will not attempt to assassinate him if he wins the election in November. Nugent was exercising a long standing tradition in America — the right to express strongly worded and even reprehensible speech, as Walter Bagdasarian did when he used a racist word to describe the president.
Mr. Grandersen might want to argue with the the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about the constitutionality of speech he opposes.