Web Posted: 01/19/2007

San Antonio Express-News

Ted Nugent, the "Motor City Madman" whose electric guitar-laden music has had a "Stranglehold" on classic rock radio stations since the 1970s, is worthy of a new nickname.

"Teflon Ted," it seems, can wear a symbol many Texans consider a distasteful reminder of the South’s slaveholder past, and no one in the state’s highest office seems to care.

Nugent, a personal friend of Gov. Rick Perry, performed at Perry’s inaugural ball earlier this week wearing an image of the Confederate flag.

And while a Perry spokesman says "you’re not going to see the governor jogging around Town Lake with a Confederate T-shirt," the governor doesn’t think it’s his place to call out his hunting buddy.

"He can no more control what Ted Nugent wears on stage than he can control what a student can wear on a state-funded university campus," said Perry spokesman Robert Black.

True. Nobody said it’s the governor’s job to ensure there are no wardrobe malfunctions at a rock performance.

But, at the same time, this wasn’t just another stop on a 100-city Ted Nugent tour. This was a special invite for Nugent to play "Cat Scratch Fever" to a black-tie crowd soaking in the inauguration of the governor of Texas.

Asked if Perry would have preferred if Nugent chose a different shirt to celebrate the governor’s unprecedented election with only 39 percent of the vote, Black said not really.

"That’s hindsight, and that doesn’t matter," Black said. "(Nugent) did it. You have to move on."

Easier said than done. In an e-mail to reporters after news of Nugent’s performance broke, Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wasn’t as cavalier.

"Whenever someone sports the Confederate battle flag, many Texans will be offended, and rightly so, because of what it symbolizes — the enslavement of African Americans and more recently the symbol of hate groups and terrorists," he said.

Not everyone who has a fondness for the Confederacy is a racist or a member of a hate group. But one can’t conveniently ignore the Confederate flag’s historical baggage and treat it as a benign artifact of the Old South, either.

If that were the standard, then it wouldn’t trouble anyone when first- or second-generation Mexican immigrants sport the Mexican flag at rallies protesting proposed laws they feel are unjust.

If no one is accusing Ted Nugent of advocating a new Civil War, it’s harder to assume that Hispanics want the Southwest to be returned to Mexico.

I asked Robert Black if there was a double standard being applied to Nugent’s inaugural performance and the actions of some at immigrant rights marches. Or, better yet, what about the backlash suffered by the Dixie Chicks, the country group that has been blackballed from many radio stations for critical comments about President Bush?

"I don’t know how to answer that," Black said.

Black, who wasn’t present for Nugent’s performance, said he was surprised by the continued inquiries.

"I don’t honestly know if this was a media-driven thing or if someone really got upset about it," he said. "I haven’t heard from anybody who was there who was upset."

And perhaps that is the most disconcerting fact of them all.

Many of the governor’s most enthusiastic supporters could fill the Austin Convention Center and not even bat an eyelash at the sight of the Confederate flag.

© 2007 KENS 5 and the San Antonio Express-News

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