Skip to main Content

Ted Nugent tells of 4 hours at the White House with Sarah Palin, Kid Rock and the president

  • Author: Glenn Thrush, The New York Times
  • Updated: April 21, 2017
  • Published April 20, 2017

Sarah Palin and President Trump with Ted Nugent and his wife, Shemane Deziel, and Kid Rock and his fiancée, Audrey Berry, at the White House on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Sarah Palin had a fete to remember at the White House for several hours Wednesday night, as President Donald Trump treated the high-profile supporters to a white-china private dinner, a room-by-room tour and free-range policy chat.

Nugent — a guitar demigod, knife-between-the-teeth hunter and conservative provocateur — offered an inside glimpse of a gracious, relaxed and house-proud president with ample time to offer his thoughts on a wide array of topics, from entertainment to existential geopolitical perils.

"We were there for four hours, man!" Nugent, a 68-year-old Detroit native, said in a telephone interview Thursday, using an expletive to signal his amazement at Trump's willingness to spend so much time with his three casually dressed visitors.

"He gave us a wonderful personal tour of every room and talked about the origins of every carpet and every painting — there was a Monet — and then we had dinner," said Nugent, who has referred to former President Barack Obama as a "mongrel" and to Hillary Clinton with an array of unflattering epithets.

The encounter included a tour of the executive residence, a grip-and-grin session with Trump in the Oval Office and an impromptu snapshot — featuring a sneering Palin — in front of Hillary Clinton's official portrait as the three guests and their families left through the East Wing. Nugent said one member of the group — he wouldn't say who — asked the three to extend their middle fingers beneath the portrait.

"I politely declined," he said. "Let the juxtaposition speak for itself."

Kid Rock, left, Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent posed in front of Hillary Clinton’s official portrait during a visit to the White House on Wednesday. Via Sarah Palin on Facebook

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, described the meeting as "a long-planned" token of the president's appreciation for Palin's support in the 2016 campaign. But Nugent said it was much more than that.

"It was like a family reunion," he said. "None of us expected this. He showed us the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom and explained how that was where the president's son died. He knew the designer of the chairs. He showed us the bulletproof glass."

During dinner, which ended with flaming baked Alaska in honor of Palin — who was governor of that state when she served as Sen. John McCain's running mate in 2008 — the president and his guests engaged in a wide-ranging conversation that Nugent said included the following topics: "health, fitness, food, rock 'n' roll, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, secure borders, the history of the United States, guns, bullets, bows and arrows, North Korea, Russia" and a half-dozen other issues.

It was not clear if the president expected quite as much company. The invitation was initially extended to Palin, who promptly invited the two aging, gun-loving, stringy-haired musical bad boys — Nugent, a radio icon of the 1970s, and Kid Rock, who rode the short-lived country-rap-rock trend to fame, which included a brief marriage to the actress Pamela Anderson.

Palin, whose slashing, populist-in-pumps political style prefigured Trump's economic nationalist message, bonded with the president, another former reality TV star. She posted a raft of pictures on her website the morning after the visit, which had not been listed on the president's public schedule.

"President Trump's invitation for dinner included bringing a couple of friends," Palin wrote on her web page, which displays behind-the-scenes snapshots with a grinning Trump.

"Asked why I invited Kid Rock and Ted Nugent, I joked, 'Because Jesus was booked,'" she wrote.

Nugent, who posed, capped in a camouflage cowboy hat, with a seated Trump in the Oval Office, was the subject of a 2012 Secret Service investigation after suggesting violence toward Obama during that year's re-election campaign.

Not everyone was pleased with the visit.

"Ted Nugent, vile racist who called Obama a subhuman mongrel, feted by Donald Trump. Disgusting, disgraceful," Norman Ornstein, a progressive political scientist, wrote in a Twitter message.

Kid Rock, whose legal name is Robert Ritchie, wore his signature backward fedora and easygoing expression.

"I played Barack Obama's inauguration even though I didn't vote for him," he told The Guardian in 2015. "I didn't agree with his policies, but there was an exciting sense of change in the air." However, he said, "that promise hasn't been fulfilled. The country is more divided than ever."

Trump had extended an invitation to Palin during the campaign, but his staff was surprised when she brought along the musical accompaniment.

One aide read the manifest of visitors and asked colleagues, "Who is Theodore Nugent?" according to a former Trump campaign official in close contact with the White House.

Nugent chortled when asked if he regretted his comments about Obama and Clinton.

"No! I will never apologize for calling out evil people," he said, arguing that Obama "intentionally dismantled the American dream for eight years."

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.