Overheard on CNN.com: How free should free speech be? Readers' views divided
Musician Ted Nugent speaks at a rally in Charleston, West Virginia.
April 19th, 2012
04:51 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: How free should free speech be? Readers' views divided

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Columnist LZ Granderson argues in an opinion article today that Ted Nugent's recent remarks about President Obama were thinly veiled threats and suggests that the rocker ought to be arrested, although he concedes there is little precedent for such a response. Our readers were divided on this view.

Ted Nugent should be in jail

Argument 1: Free speech is free

Jason Asselin of Iron Mountain, Michigan, was outraged by Granderson's column. He said that arresting Nugent because of his remarks would be a violation of Nugent's right to free speech.

"I want to live in a world where you can speak your mind freely without fear of being arrested or imprisoned," Asselin said.

"Many people talk about locking Ted up for his comments. This is exactly what many countries do today: Lock people up for speaking their mind."

Some of our readers disagreed strongly with Granderson.

okie49: "I love the liberal ideas that I see here.  Curtail freedom of speech.  No guns.  Just dump the Constitution.  If you arrest Ted, then you need to arrest the New Black Panthers."

This commenter said he didn't think Nugent was actually threatening the president.

JohnnySeven: "Mr. Nugent was addressing members at a NRA convention. You could say that this is a 'pro-gun' crowd. President Obama has the reputation (deserved or not) of not being very friendly to Second Amendment issues. There is a presidential election coming up next November and obviously there is some angst among firearm owners about the incumbent president being re-elected and attempting to relieve good citizens of their firearms. Mr. Nugent was playing to the crowd. It is understandable that non-gun owners and others unfamiliar with the gun control controversy would misinterpret Mr. Nugent's statement.

Mr. Nugent never threatened to assassinate anyone. He was stating in so many words that if President Obama gets re-elected, he would probably go to jail if such a draconian measure was adopted as to require all citizens to surrender all one's firearms or go to jail. The part of his statement about being dead is a reference to an old NRA by-line 'They can have my firearms when they take them from my cold dead hands!' It is a metaphor for the resolve to oppose any negative firearm legislation. It is NOT a cry for rebellion or revolution! I have observed that Mr. Nugent is sometimes given to hyperbole for whatever reasons. He is either loved or despised even within the community of firearm owners. I think if Mr. Anderson would have taken a bit more time to research this subject matter, he may have arrived at a different opinion."

Argument 2: Free speech has an audience

Michael Brewer of Gowen, Michigan, says he served in the military for 22 years and is now disabled and supports free speech. At the same time, he said, Ted Nugent "didn't realize the audience he had."

"You have speech, but you don't have freedom of audience," Brewer explained. "You can say what you want, but if you say something to offend or hurt someone, you've got to understand what you're dealing with.'

He also felt that Nugent's comments were disrespectful to the president.

"He offended the president of the United States. He offended the position. The people, whoever they vote in, they expect that you respect the process. That's what's great about our country. He basically just threw our freedoms out the window by saying what he did."

Brewer said he feared that with our country's history of presidential assassinations and attempts, there is a danger in not taking the remarks seriously. These commenters thought there might be a possibility of inciting violence.

GailScottt: "It's this type of talk that led to Gabrielle Giffords getting shot. Nugent needs to put a lid on it."

mary1972: "Totally agree. Remember how Palin and the GOP backtracked after that lunatic shot Giffords."

One person suspected an undertone to the GOP.

buddhanature: "This is a classic in-your-face example of the violent extremist wing of the Republican Party. They try to hide it from prime-time TV, but it's always there simmering under the covers. Dems would criticize Bush for his policies but there wasn't this level of open threats of violence or racism. Barack Obama was fairly elected by a majority of voters. You don't have to like his policies, but you have no right to threaten his life or promote violence."

Another said they didn't think the statement was appropriate.

Midloo: "How can anyone respect a man that threatens the life of our leader? I detested Bush's policies, but I would never use such rhetoric. It's low ... it's ignorant ... it doesn't show any regard for the America so many conservatives profess to love."

What's your point of view? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Celebrity • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics • Showbiz
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. keystnst

    To those worried about their 2damend. rights. Show me one piece of legislation or one speech given by the Pres. opposing the 2d amend. He and the Dems and the GOP had a golden opportunity to come out for stricter gun control after the Gabby Giffords shooting. One of their own politicians gets shot and still nothing said about the millions of illegal fire arms in this country and nothing done about gun show sales where almost anyone who attends can purchase a firearm. How many more Columbines should we have before sensible legislation is passed to prevent this slaughter?

    April 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. RGN

    I respect the freedom of speech, however there is a fine line between free speech and threatening someone's life. If someone said that to me: I will be dead or in jail if you are the President in 2012. I would have the person thrown in jail. That is the law, people get thrown in jail or charged with disorderly conduct and have to take anger management courses for threats and also put on probation. For threatening the President it is more than likely a stiffer penalty. Ted has probably encouraged a bunch of backwoods characters now to think that is ok. Ted don't talk, just vote.

    April 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe d

      the n.r.a. = the national republican army, the party that has destroyed our country. the party of lies, hate, and racists.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod in Texas

      I agree with you. If you are on an airplane or airport and even mention the word bomb, you are strapped to your seat and then escorted off the plane where you are held for 12 hours of questioning. This man blatantly made a threat and nothing was done. No questions were ask.

      April 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      ...a rally in Charleston, West Virginia of all places...sounds like he is trying to stir up something!.

      September 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bill privett

    Mr. Nugent is pumped up by his ego (still thinks he's a rock star

    mr nugent is pumped up on his own ego. he was once a rock star, who says he didn't do the drugs his fans were doing. when you sober up his music really sucks. so just let him ramble cause nobody cares what he thinks anymore.that's why people used to call him terrible ted. he's obsessed with killing, guns, and violently ending life.

    April 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Me

    The great thing about the Freedom is Speech is that we find out who the idiots are. As for the Nuge, he hasn't been able to live down "Wango Tango" and hasn't done anything great since "The Great White Buffalo". So, if he wants to pump his ego up by being a latter day minuteman, that's his business, and embarrassment.

    April 23, 2012 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. Billy Z

    Once a "Socialist" is in the White House everyone seems to forget that Dubba's press sec'y responded to not-so-100% supportive statements by Bill Maher by saying he needed to "... remind Americans that [they] have to be careful what they say, [to be] careful what you do." And there actually is a *law* passed by your Senators and Representatives against threatening the President, Vice and even Prez candidates!

    April 23, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. pritka

    Lock him up! It is illegal to threaten the life of a sitting president. Free speech is not the issue. If John Q Public cannot threaten the president without serious repercussions an idiot like Ted Nugent should not get away with it either.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jerry Findley

    Did any of the Liberal whiners on here actually read the transcipt or watch the video ???? The only life Nugent threatened was his own !!! You idiots are the kind of people to yell fire in a movie just to get a better seat....

    April 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Donald in CA

    I wish law enforcement had of taken the threats against Dr. Tiller serious. Remember, bill o'reilly called him tiller the killer and we know how that ended up. You have to take these crazies serious, especially a crazy such as ted nugent.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Z-Rey

    Free speech, 1st amendment. Nugent is OK. Lock up all that think like Columnist LZ Granderson. They are a danger to our freedom.

    April 24, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Rod in Texas

      A threat against a sitting president is not protected by free speech.

      April 24, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Larry

    Hmmmmm So where is America's rage? Remember the Dixie chicks? why not the same response.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  11. caeser

    He's only suggesting that one of you right wing nutcases assassinate the President in order to keep your perceived hero "The Nuge" (at least that's the way he see's himself)alive and out of jail.
    Is it an attempt to incite violence you be the judge but remember that every state has a self styled"Militia"that operates outside the law and Michigan not the least of them.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. Belinda

    If you threaten someone, with physical violence . You should go to jail . I thought it was a felony . what makes this clown so special , that he should get away with this and someone else goes to jail for same thing. Go pick on a grizzly bear, with no gun , you big wimp.

    May 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
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