A gust of Michigan rock ‘n’ roll swept through the White House Wednesday evening, and as Ted Nugent tells it, all involved — including President Donald Trump — emerged better for it.
The world awoke Thursday morning to learn the president had spent his evening with Detroit-bred rockers Nugent and Kid Rock, two outspoken Trump supporters were invitees of fellow dinner guest Sarah Palin.
What they had expected to be an hour or two at the White House stretched into a freewheeling four-hour hang session, as the president gave them a detailed tour and sat down for a chatty dinner over lobster salad and lamb chops. Nugent’s wife, Shemane Nugent, and Rock’s fiancée, Audrey Berry, were among the dinner guests who included White House spokesman Sean Spicer and policy adviser Stephen Miller.
“It was like I was hanging out with a bunch of my rock ’n’ roll buddies or at a hunting camp,” Nugent told the Free Press.
Images from the scene, including a photo of Nugent and Rock sardonically posing with Hillary Clinton’s official portrait, quickly went viral among fans. Some were altered into mocking memes by those not so keen on the president or the gun-loving Nugent and Rock.
Conversation with Trump was wide-ranging, Nugent said — “rock ’n’ roll and hunting and guns and venison and energy and borders and military strength and Supreme Court justices and good food and pretty girls.” He said the president seemed acquainted with Nugent and Rock’s music.
The kinship is no surprise: The two rockers have been among Trump’s most vocal celebrity advocates, and Nugent said they represent a salt-of-the-earth American demographic that helped Trump land the presidency.
“Trump is swinging an American crowbar at all things status quo,” Nugent said. “Does that ring any bells? Does that sound like a guitar player from Detroit who was anti-dope, pro-law enforcement, pro-gun, during the hippie days?”
Nugent, 68, shared plenty of details with the Free Press about his night at the White House:
QUESTION: So, how did this come together?
ANSWER: Donald Trump reached out to Sarah Palin and said to invite people that she — well, I’ll let her use her own words — but people who matter, people who’d like to have dinner at the White House and that you think are influential and connected. And I don’t mean that in a (cocky) way, I basically mean people that are involved in their we-the-people responsibilities. Hellooo!
So she called, said President Trump had confirmed and he’d like us to attend. We got a buddy with a plane and off we go.
And of course, his team had called me on (Nov. 8, to request an inauguration performance) after I’d done the Freedom Hill and Grand Rapids (campaign rallies). They saw that rock ’n’ roll is cool and has a life of its own and is a force to reckon with. But my political connection, especially with we-the-people Michiganiacs — the Michiganiacs in the asset column, the ones that produce, the ones with alarm clocks, you know those folks? They’re still alive and well across the country.
They saw how I connected with that audience at Freedom Hill and again in Grand Rapids, and that I knew exactly what buttons to push. And I mean that in a genuine, sincere way — important issues that are important to people who want quality of life and believe that individuals should earn their own way and be an asset to their family, community and country. (Trump) knew that’s the basics of American politics — where we the people monitor the actions of our elected employees and we raise hell with them and demand accountability. It’s not rocket science. Even the author of “Wango Tango” can figure this (stuff) out, you know what I mean?
Q: What did you guys talk about?
A: Everything! Rock ’n’ roll and hunting and guns and venison and energy and borders and military strength and Supreme Court justices and good food and pretty girls. What would you and I talk about around a campfire? I’m sure our conversations would run the gamut of the human experience and things that bring us joy and quality of life and intrigue and humor.
Q: Did he pick your brain?
A: Oh, boy! Yes, indeed. I wish you’d get Kid Rock on the phone to confirm. Tell you the best way to describe it: Too bad you can’t use the word “s----kicker,” because it was a s----kicker, fun evening. I’ve got to tell you, it was so open, so unguarded, so down-to-earth and free-flowing. It was like I was hanging out with a bunch of my rock ’n’ roll buddies or at a hunting camp. Or hanging with some Teamsters, or hanging out with working-hard-playing-hard ranchers and cops and teachers.
He gave us a tour of that White House — I don’t think anybody’s ever had a better tour. The president took us to every room and looked at every painting and talked about every bed and every carpet and every rug and every bulletproof glass. It was just awesome.
Q: Did you get the sense that he saw you and (Kid Rock) as a conduit to a part of America he’s intent on staying in touch with?
A: Yes — though I felt in my gut that was not the driving force. But he needed to hear — and that’s where the word s----kicker comes up. We talked about demographics and our fan base and how work-hard-play-hard America identified (with Trump). Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania — those are not reliably blue states.
And that’s why my media in those states and across the country I think resonated. I really got the licensed deer hunters, the NRA members, the people who believe in freedom and gun rights, I got them to vote. Because they saw nothing to vote for in McCain or Romney, and rightly so. But it was a tragic miscalculation, because they gave it to Obama. If you really analyze it, that’s what happened (in 2008 and 2012). The s----kickers didn’t come out. So we sent the wimps packing. And Trump’s no wimp.
Here’s another real accurate overview: Trump is swinging an American crowbar at all things status quo. ... It’s swinging a crowbar at all things status quo, because all things status quo ruin everything they come in contact with. The entrenched establishment politics is just obscene, and here comes a guy who’s not afraid to lift that middle finger. And God knows that resonates with Bob Ritchie (Kid Rock) and Uncle Ted and Sarah Palin.
Q: I have to say I’ve never gotten a good feel for his music tastes. He’s always struck me as a guy too focused on other things to spend much time with it.
A: You’re right, it’s not easy to pin that down, because we have no indicators. There’s never been a review or discussion of his musical tastes. But boy, he knew my songs. And he knew Bob’s songs. When I gave him this autographed guitar — I brought a red, white and blue guitar that Bob signed, too — he started beating on it, doing his best Elvis Presley impersonation. It was really rather precious.
And he was able to reference Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and Little Richard. Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. He’s got a couple of years on me — he’s 70 — and those are certainly the core influences of all things Detroit music and certainly Kid Rock and Ted Nugent, and he was aware of that. And I don’t think he did research just so he could bring up Bo Diddley’s name to me. He knew about this stuff, and he referenced it often.
Q: So, what was on the dinner menu? Did you show up with any wild game?
A: I was going to bring some Michigan backstraps (cuts of venison meat), but we traveled light. (Laughs) God, did we travel light — I lost 20 pounds just taking the (stuff) off my belt.
But we had some of my favorite things outside of wild game: a lobster salad, delicious lamb chops — I made sure to emphasize to everyone, “the cuter the critter, the sweeter the meat.” And they were done exquisitely, with some asparagus and taters on the side with good sauce. He was bragging about their chefs, and rightly so. He’s very proud of them. I got to meet all the staff and had a great time with everybody.
The spirit could not have been more buoyant. It was fun, silliness. And we talked about serious things, like Russia and North Korea. We covered the bases.
We didn’t know what to expect. I figured we’d get an hour, maybe two hours with the president. We were there for over four hours. It was awesome.
Q: Whose idea was it to pose in front of the Hillary Clinton portrait?
A: That was my wife, Shemane. She said, “You guys have to stop here. I’ve got to get a picture of this.” Ever the thoughtful wife, yeah. And I guess that it’s made its rounds.
That’s another thing about it. Getting to that s---kicker term — nobody said, “You can’t do this and you can’t talk about that, you can’t go here and you can’t touch that.” It was a damned free-for-all. The president had faith that we knew how to conduct ourselves, regardless of what someone might have printed in Creem magazine about the Motor City Madman.
Detroit Free Press