Fan reaction to Nugent troubling

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Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 4:29 am

It was bad enough that rock musician Ted Nugent made racially insensitive remarks on stage last week in Dubuque. What made it worse was that audience members cheered.

Anybody who thinks racism is in Dubuque's past had better think again.

Nugent commented approvingly that he saw so many white people in the audience. He commended Dubuque for being a "white town." The crowd -- not just a few fans here and there -- cheered. (That is not to say that everyone in the audience was a Dubuque resident and that everyone cheered. But no expression of disapproval was heard, either; hopefully, some were too shocked to respond.)

People who attend performances, whether they are stand-up comics or musicians or the like, might expect some political comments to be interjected during a show. But Nugent's remarks crossed the line.

This wasn't a first for Nugent. For example, there was the Texas governor's inaugural ball in 2007. A newspaper reported that Nugent, whose conservative politics and pro-gun beliefs are well known, "appeared on stage wearing a cut-off T-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag and shouting unflattering remarks about undocumented immigrants, including kicking them out of the country."

Enter Ted Nugent's name in Google and you'll be treated to many racist and sexist gems. Here's a Nugent rant delivered at a National Rifle Association conference : "Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em! To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun, and when they attack you, shoot 'em."

Officials at the Diamond Jo Casino, who booked Nugent here, said they won't censor a performer. Other venues who book talent, also asked about it by the TH, said much the same. We get it: Freedom of speech and all that. But venues also have the freedom to not book acts, especially ones whose on-stage comments are known to include hate speech.

Certainly, there are comedians who play local stages who might offend some audience members with crude humor and explicit language. But Nugent's comments went beyond a question of taste. It's fodder for career-crippling YouTube videos and audiotapes.

That type of talk, delivered to audience members who have been drinking, could spark a confrontation between audience members. Does the venue have a plan for how to handle that? What about a venue's employees -- should they be expected to work in that environment?

And then for the local crowd to cheer Nugent's remarks? It is an outrage and embarrassment.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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