Rocker Ted Nugent, who was invited to sing the national anthem at a “Back the Blue” demonstration in East Meadow on Saturday, pulled out of the event as Nassau and Suffolk police unions condemned the outspoken entertainer's past remarks and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran cited New York's 14-day quarantine rule for visitors from other states.
The event, which is to take place in Eisenhower Park, has also generated a counterprotest at the same time and place: 2 p.m. at Football Field 4 of the park.
“It has come to our attention that Ted Nugent, who was invited by the organizers of the event to sing the National Anthem, has a long history of making hurtful and hateful comments, and has beliefs that are not consistent with those held by our Association and our Members,” read a statement by James McDermott, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association.
“We do not and will not condone his remarks and views, and have advised the event’s organizers that we will not participate in or support any rally that he attends,” he added.
Representatives for Nugent — a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump and board member of the National Rifle Association who has been quoted making disparaging, even threatening, remarks about former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — could not be reached for comment.
Law Enforcement Officers Weekend, sponsors of the event, though, said he would not attend.
"Ted Nugent will not be performing, speaking, or otherwise participating in the pro law enforcement demonstration tomorrow at Eisenhower Park," the group said in a statement. "The purpose of this demonstration is to bring people together in support of the men and women of law enforcement. While we whole heartedly appreciate anyone who supports the men and women in blue, including Mr. Nugent, the controversy over his appearance is contrary to the objectives of the demonstration."
Suffolk’s PBA president, Noel DiGerolamo, said: “We understand there is concern about Mr. Ted Nugent singing the national anthem at this event. The Suffolk County PBA was invited as a guest to show our support for law enforcement. Mr. Nugent's views are not representative of our organization and we certainly do not condone his many distasteful public comments.”
Both police unions are expected to participate in the event. Back the Blue events have surfaced across the country in recent months as supporters of Black Lives Matter call for wide-scale reforms in policing in the wake of several prominent police brutality cases.
“Instead of engaging in productive discussion about the violence, lawlessness, and outright anarchy faced by law enforcement in recent weeks, political opportunists have used Ted Nugent’s appearance to distract from the real issue of the war on police,” DiGerolamo said. “In solidarity, members of the Suffolk County PBA will rally alongside our brothers and sisters in blue this weekend to stand up for law enforcement.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the singer, who has a home in Texas, withdrew his plans to attend after he was “reminded” of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s directive requiring people traveling from more than 30 states to quarantine for 14 days to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“Nassau County will continue to protect our residents’ right to safe, peaceful protest as is guaranteed under the First Amendment of our Constitution,” she said in a statement. “However, we won’t tolerate blatant violations of the Governor’s quarantine order for travelers from high-risk states, which is designed to protect the health and safety of Long Islanders.As I stated yesterday, while Nassau County stands by First Amendment rights, the County does not condone hate-filled speech. Our Police Department is the finest in the Country and our officers deserve admiration in a setting that we can all be proud of.”
Nassau Legislature Minority Leader Kevan M. Abrahams (D-Freeport) said regarding Nugent's planned appearance said in a statement, “While we are glad that the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association came to its senses and publicly disavowed its support for this event, we remain deeply troubled by their decision to use official PBA social media platforms to support and promote the participation of such a bigoted, divisive individual.”
The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County issued a statement Friday saying it was "gratified to see that the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association has announced that it will not support or participate in the event because of Mr. Nugent’s presence."
"Ted Nugent’s history and messages of hate and intolerance are inconsistent with everything we — and the NCPD — stand for," the statement added.
Saturday's event, which is sponsored by several organizations such as Law Enforcement Today, Advocacy for LEO’s and Brothers Before Others, still has a lineup of prominent supporters of law enforcement. They include Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito and Republican Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins, a former captain of the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Department.
Curran also advised Higgins to heed the state’s executive order to quarantine, but it was unclear if he was still attending the event.