Ted Nugent drew applause and cheers from more than 150 people present at the event, held at the farm of TEA Party co-founder Rob DiLorenzo. Nugent assailed President Barack Obama, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, C-Calif., and Attorney General Eric Holder, among others.
“America is a hellhole on the fast track to cultural suicide,” Nugent said. “Our attorney general is a racist, gun-running felon.”
He said President Barack Obama violates his oath on a regular basis, while those who stand by those words have paid the ultimate price. Nugent, who did not serve in the military and received at least two draft deferments before being deemed “not qualified for any military service,” said he has stood with soldiers and supported those who fell while serving their country.
“I have saluted too many flag-draped coffins,” he said, and hugged the families of fallen soldiers. The fact that America’s leaders do not live up to their oaths, in his view, is deplorable.
“He’s a bad man,” Nugent said about Obama. “He represents communism. He represents socialism.”
But Nugent’s tone during the approximately 90 minutes he was on stage was calmer than it has been in some of his other appearances in recent years. For one thing, he was not on a concert stage.
He repeatedly called for people to get politically involved, to lobby their legislators and to make their views known. That is the best way to stand up to Obama, Nugent said.
“He’s not the enemy,” he said. “The non-voters are.”
Nugent, a National Rifle Association board member, also called for people to join the NRA.
Another reason may have been a spate of cancellations after several of his anti-Obama comments and other statements were widely distributed. The original plan Saturday was for Nugent to hurry to and from the picnic, since he had two nights of shows at a Tacoma, Wash., casino.
But those shows were canceled after Nugent’s words were distributed. When he left the picnic to catch a plane, he said his wife had some chores for him to do. He did pause to pose for a few photos, including one with some Powell and Cody Boy Scouts, and to sign some autographs.
Nugent was escorted to and from the event by seven Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office vehicles. Sheriff Ken Blackburn told the audience the deputies were there on their own time and the only cost to the county was fuel.
Blackburn swore Nugent and retired Maj.Gen. Paul Vallely in as honorary deputies. Vallely, a frequent guest on Fox News shows and other conservative media outlets, gave the keynote address at the event and then joined Nugent for a question-and-answer session.
Vallely said Obama was “a radical Muslim sympathizer” and should be removed from office. He also said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., should be forced out as well.
Both comments went over well with the crowd, which laughed, cheered and expressed its support for the pro-conservative, anti-liberal comments.
Enzi, Barrasso in crowd
Marge Tallen of Wapiti said she brought her 9-year-old daughter Ida to the picnic to hear from Nugent.
“I thought it was awesome,” Marge said.
Some of his critics had a sharp message for those who cheered Nugent. Sergio Maldonado, a Democrat running for a state Senate seat, issued a press release about the picnic Saturday afternoon.
“The recent comments from Ted Nugent, an avowed racist and an individual who lacks a soul, is unfortunate,” Maldonado said in the release. “As a member of the Northern Arapaho tribe and candidate for Senate District 25 representing all the citizens I denounce his lunatic antics and philosophy. Any individual with a modicum of integrity and self-worth will distance themselves from him.
“Sadly, too many will jump on the bandwagon of racism simply to be seen and heard; hopefully the voters will remember their poor judgment at election time.”
Musician Ryan Martin of Phoenix, who is in Cody performing at a local bar/restaurant this summer, posed for a photo with Nugent and asked him to sign his guitar.
“I’m here because of his music,” Martin said. “I’m not that all into politics.”
But that’s what brought most people out on the hot summer afternoon. They came to hear from the “Motor City Madman,” as he referred to himself, and, to a lesser extent, to see the politicians.
Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso were present, but they stood more than 100 feet away from the stage while Nugent spoke, and primarily talked with audience members.
Barrasso shook his head when asked if he was a Nugent fan. He said he comes to the picnic most years to talk with his constituents.
Barrasso did respond to a question from Vallely and said if six Senate seats change parties, including three in adjoining states, the Republican Party will control the Senate.
Enzi listened to part of Nugent’s speech and said he admired how he held the crowd’s interest. When asked about some of Nugent’s harsher comments in recent years, Enzi said he could not support them.
“There are some things you shouldn’t say in public,” he said.
Nugent told the crowd he felt his words have been distorted. He said when he reacted angrily after a show at a Native American-owned casino was canceled, in which he called the critics “unclean vermin,” his statement was taken out of context.
He said he was speaking about protesters at his shows, not Indians.
“There’s not a tribe in this nation that hasn’t invited me to their reservation,” he said.
Nugent said he has tried to assist tribes in educating their members, and said he was struck by the fact that the man who wrote bawdy rock songs is now teaching “sustained yield wildlife management to Indians.”
He said people who travel near his ranch in Texas know that he will shoot any trespassers.
“I’d like to have that policy for America,” Nugent said, a comment that drew loud cheers from the crowd. And he said if anyone fires on Americans, they should expect “1,000 times” of a response.
But Nugent said he wasn’t going to apologize for his bold assertions and harsh critiques.
“I don’t ruffle feathers, I shoot feathers and gut feathers and pluck them,” he said. “It’s a culture war, not a culture discussion.”