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. Ciara

    He got you in a stranglehold baby!

    April 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. portland tony

    Didn't hear and don't care...Ted Nugent was a part time musician of some 60 years ago. If his mind still works, he can say just about anything he wants. But Jeez...has he really got anything left that's important to say?

    April 19, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. genomega1

    Get a grip, the leftists were calling for Bush's death every day he was in office.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vader

      Don't recall many overt death threats. Do recall many calls for imprisonment for crimes against humanity (the Iraq and Afghanistan wars).

      April 19, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • BDT88

      Anyone in particular to back that up with?

      April 19, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • paulm5545

      I recall the movie, Death of a President (2006) which depicted the violent assassination of then President George Bush. Now it would seem to me that the movie, which leaves absolutely no doubt as to who is to be assassinated, was far, far worse then what Mr. Nugent said. Nugent's is left to interpretation – a threat against Obama or was he referring to the old adage of you can have my gun when you pry it from my dead, cold hands? The movie – a violent fictional assassination. Can you imagine that movie coming out today, with Obama as the subject? Hoo-ee...stand by!!

      April 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Susanna

    In a few weeks I am going to be sitting a dozen feet from this man, more or less forced to listen to him. He's opening the show for my favorite band. I bought my tickets knowing what a bozo he is, and this confirms it. I think his primary motivation is fear, fear that guns will be taken away. Guns are really attractive to somebody whose life is dominated by fear. Also, he profits from the attention that he's getting. That's why he's toured for so many years, he needs lots of attention. I don't think he's actually as violent (toward human beings) as he sounds. He's manipulating the media. His fans sound a lot more dangerous to me than he is. Some of them are very very angry he endorsed a Mormon, a politician who supported government involvement in healthcare who once supported abortion rights. Some of them could be inspired to become violent by statements Ted makes, statements Ted himself doesn't take seriously.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    Ted Nugent really is irrelevant; I never have taken his political views all that seriously.
    I can make up my own mind about politics.
    His music? It's okay, I guess.
    Was he really threatening the POTUS? Open to interpretation...it wasn't explicitely expressed, but it was implied, IMO.
    Innuendo isn't FACT, though.

    I will say one thing that LZ got right, however; the respect for the Presidential Office is woefully lacking, and has been for at least the last few decades or so...
    There is a difference between respect for the office and respect for the person who occupies it.
    Subtle, but there IS a difference.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fernace

    When I read Nugents statement the 1st thing that came to mind was "a thinly veiled threat," as Granderson put it! That's all a nutcan w/a gun needs to "take matters in hand"! Free Speech is a staple of our American lives, but it's still a priviledge that comes w/responsibilities! Saying inappropriate things about politicians/the President, that are caustic & prone to misinterpretation is irresponsible & stupid! Do I think Nugent should be arrested for what he said? Hel.la No, because then I couldn't disagree or call his comments stupid! Free Speech goes both ways! I do think it's appropriate for Nugent to have to answer to the Secret Service, as he did yesterday!!

    April 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jayjay

    I like ted but he shouldn't be saying things like that plus if you wanna see obama voted out of office this kind of thing does not help

    April 19, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mr Dalloway

    My opinion is that free speech should always be expressed. It will give you the opportunity to ignore, despise, or learn from it. Knowledge is always very important.

    April 19, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mr Dalloway

    America is not promised an on going existence, if WE don't get it together there will not a United States of America. It's OUR call!

    April 19, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • world be free

      Why doesn't the ECB perform the same sort of intervention in the Spanish market as the fed did in the USA market.
      Sure the central bank printed money for the LTRO in turn providing short term enthusiasm for markets.
      But why not just print money to purchase mortgage backed securities in Spain. They face the same high unemployment and low property values we do. Why not recapitalise their banks the same way we did. By pulling problematic assets off the balance sheet.

      April 19, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mark

    did anyone see my prior post????? That answers free speech question.,.

    April 19, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • world be free

      who cares about ted. He is a dolt attempting to speed the downward spiral of stupidity.

      April 19, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dee

    The Secret Service did the right thing maybe this will tone down some of the rhetoric and bring some civility and respect back to the office of the President. I know other countries are just sitting back and laughing at us. They probably made the NRA take do that vile message.

    The Secret Service has sent a strong message you can bet he will not tell exactly what was said in that meeting just watch his actions and also it sends a message to others who spew this type of hatred and rhetoric.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dee


    The Secret Service did the right thing maybe this will tone down some of the rhetoric and bring some civility and respect back to the Office of the President. I know other countries are just sitting back and laughing at us. They probably made the NRA take down that vile message.

    The Secret Service has sent a strong message you can bet he will not tell exactly what was said in that meeting just watch his actions and also it sends a message to others who spew this type of hatred and rhetoric that it will not be tolerated.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. leadreviewer

    Here here.. Ted Nugent is nothing more than an attention seeking egomaniac.. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate the music but … Shut up, and I do know that you help the community.. Well help it more! Quietly.. And when Obama wins.. Let me suggest a recently cleared out piece of land to you in Pakistan you Moron.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mr Dalloway

    Has America lost it's moral compass?

    April 20, 2012 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  15. Woods

    Freedom of speech!!!!Rock on Ted!!!!!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
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