AUSTIN -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is distancing himself from comments made by rock guitarist and conservative lightning rod Ted Nugent, while at the same time holding firm on plans to appear with Nugent on the campaign trial.
The litigious relationship between Abbott and the federal government under President Barack Obama is one of the central themes in the Republican's campaign for governor. While campaigning, Abbott frequently reminds voters of the dozens of lawsuits filed against the Obama administration on issues ranging from the Affordable Care Act to the Voting Rights Act.
Yet, Abbott's attacks on the president's politics and policies are a far cry from comments made by Nugent. Widely criticized for his offensive remarks concerning minorities and women, the gun enthusiast and NRA board member was questioned by the U.S. Secret Service after a 2011 interview in which he stated, "I will either be dead or in jail this time next year" if the president is reelected.
More recently, Nugent stirred outrage for his racially charged comments concerning the president.
"I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame, enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised, communist educated, communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America," Nugent said in a January interview for gun enthusiast blog Guns.com.
Abbott is scheduled to appear with Nugent at campaign stops Tuesday in Denton and Wichita Falls. On Monday, a number of Democrat-aligned organizations demanded Abbott cancel the appearance and denounce Nugent. Annie's List, an organization dedicated to promoting Democratic women, took aim at Nugent's history of misogynistic remarks.
"Ted Nugent’s comments against women are despicable," read a statement from Grace Garcia, executive director of Annie's list. "Much of what he has said is so repulsive, I can’t even repeat it. It’s reprehensible that Greg Abbot is now publicly accepting support from this person."
The Lone Star Project released a video including parts of an interview in which Nugent described having relationships with much younger women, seeking to paint Abbott as hypocritical for appearing with Nugent while fighting against sexual predators. Nugent has never been charged with any such crimes.
"Texans want to hear about real issues that matter to them," said Hector Nieto with the Lone Star Project. "And to bring somebody as vile as Ted Nugent is disgusting and not the political conversation people want to have."
The Texas Democratic Party honed in on Nugent's language on the topic of race.
"He spews hate against our first African-American president and in return, Attorney General Greg Abbott welcomes him to the campaign trail," read a statement from Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. "Is this how Abbott celebrates Black History Month? Texans deserve better than a statewide office holder and candidate running for governor who welcomes Ted Nugent and his repugnant comments."
While acknowledging Nugent's controversial statements, Abbott's campaign Monday confirmed that the appearances will go on as scheduled.
"Ted Nugent is a forceful advocate for individual liberty and constitutional rights - especially the Second Amendment rights cherished by Texans," Texans for Greg Abbott communications director Matt Hirsch said in statement. "While he may sometimes say things or use language that Greg Abbott would not endorse or agree with, we appreciate the support of everyone who supports protecting our Constitution."
For now, it's another sign of the free-for-all 2014 election season.