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Opinion

opinion | scot lehiigh

Bill Maher, Ted Nugent pollute the political dialogue

Candidates should disavow loudmouth supporters like Maher, Nugent

associated press/globe staff illustration

Today, let’s consider two louche loudmouths, the offensive comments they’ve made, and the presidential campaigns that nevertheless seem pleased to have their support.

On the left, we have second-rate comedian Bill Maher. Maher is in the news of late for having said that “Ann Romney has never gotten her ass out of the house to work,” a comment typical of his ceaseless efforts to draw attention to himself.

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But that’s nothing compared to the crude things he’s had to say about Sarah Palin. How bad are they? Well, the worst are too coarse to publish; one involves the c-word, and the second is almost as offensive. Maher has offered a number of idiotic justifications for his boorishness. He’s a comedian; his audiences haven’t objected; in England, the c-word can be applied to both sexes, and so on. It’s all self-excusing rot.

Now, one wouldn’t think a presidential campaign would associate with someone who uses vile terms to mock a woman he dislikes. Still, Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC founded by former White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, has accepted $1 million from Maher. I know, I know: The super PAC, the White House, and the Obama campaign are, fictively, all separate entities. Yet we all also know that if the president or David Axelrod declared they didn’t want the Obama reelection effort to have any association with Maher, Burton would return the money tomorrow.

I asked Burton via e-mail: Why, given Maher’s misogynistic derision, did Priorities USA Action take the money?

“Mitt Romney has real problems if he is basing his case to women on something vulgar that a comedian said about a politician,” Burton e-mailed back. (My question wasn’t at the prompting of the Romney camp.) “And if he is suddenly so concerned about what entertainers have had to say about women, how can Romney be so proud to have the support of Ted Nugent?”

Which brings us to our louche loudmouth on the right. Nugent is in the news for having declared at last week’s NRA confab that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” But the dim-witted third-rate rocker has uttered any number of offensive remarks over the years. He has, for example, applied to Hillary Clinton the cruder of the epithets Maher used for Palin. He’s also described Clinton as a “two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.” And referred to Dianne Feinstein as a “worthless whore.”

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Nevertheless, in early March, Romney apparently spent some time on the phone with Nugent before landing his endorsement. Why? Well, for those who lost track of him back around 1977, Nugent is a gun-and-hunting enthusiast and NRA board member. That apparently gives him some sway with the gun crowd — though it’s beyond me why a genuine sportsman would admire a man who participates in “canned hunts” where “game” is stalked inside a fenced property; owns a canned-hunt facility of his own; and pled no contest in 2010 to charges of deer baiting.

Still, according to Nugent’s account, his endorsement came after he and Romney had a long phone conversation, during which Romney assured him that he wouldn’t support any new gun-control laws. Although the Romney camp has since told NBC that it did not solicit Nugent’s endorsement, they haven’t denied the telephone conversation. Further, as NBC’s Andrea Mitchell has reported, both Romney and his son Tagg were happy with Nugent’s endorsement at the time.

When I inquired, repeatedly, about how Nugent’s nod happened and why Romney would want it in light of Nugent’s many objectionable comments, all I could get out of Team Romney was an e-mailed statement from spokeswoman Andrea Saul: “Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from. Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil.”

Now, hyper-partisans will no doubt argue one man’s offenses are serious, while the other’s are trivial. But Maher and Nugent both deserve the bum’s rush, not the tolerance Maher’s money has won from Burton or the covert courtship Nugent evidently received from Romney.

So c’mon, campaigns. Show some integrity. Take a stand for civility and against misogyny. Reject and rebuke the louche loudmouths, even if that comes at a cost. Trust me, you’ll respect yourself in the morning.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com.

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