AUSTIN - Controversy over Attorney General Greg Abbott's decision to campaign for governor with Ted Nugent continued to simmer Friday, even after the outspoken rocker apologized for calling President Barack Obama a "subhuman mongrel."
Gov. Rick Perry, who has appeared on stage with Nugent, condemned Nugent's comments during a Thursday appearance on cable TV.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, followed on a subsequent cable appearance by saying Nugent's comments about the president would never fly out of his mouth. The cascade of criticism continued with U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., also chiming in to blast Nugent.
That set the stage Friday for a rare scene: a somewhat conciliatory Nugent.
"I did cross the line," Nugent said when asked about his Obama comments by conservative radio host and CNN commentator Ben Ferguson. "I do apologize, not necessarily to the president, but on behalf of much better men than myself, like the best governor in America, Gov. Rick Perry, (and Abbott) the best attorney general in America."
But Abbott, the likely GOP nominee for governor, continued to brush off pressure from Democrats, who have prodded him all week to not only denounce his appearance with Nugent but to publicly shun other inflammatory comments the rock star has made over the years.
"I believe Ted Nugent recognized his language was wrong and he rightly apologized," Abbott said in a statement. "This is not the kind of language I would use or endorse in any way."
About 'idea of values'
The firestorm started last week when it first surfaced that Abbott would campaign with Nugent in North Texas.
Reacting to the news, Democrats commenced an all-out assault on Nugent's character - pointing out racial slurs and admitted relationships with younger women - and casting it as a direct reflection of Abbott's moral compass.
"If this is Greg Abbott's idea of values, it's repulsive," state Sen. Wendy Davis, Abbott's presumed Democratic opponent, said earlier this week.
The strategy paid off.
Abbott's campaign swing with Nugent was mired in controversy. And Abbott spent most of the week ducking questions about some of Nugent's most divisive comments in the past (Abbott repeatedly said when asked about Nugent's past comments that he was unaware of them).
On Friday, Abbott looked to pivot from the controversy.
"It's time to move beyond this, and I will continue to focus on the issues that matter to Texans," he said.
The attorney general's comments did little to appease Democrats.
Ted Nugent "has a really nasty history toward women, immigrants and African-Americans. This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Manny Garcia, a spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party. "All Greg Abbott is saying is I don't endorse those words. He doesn't regret his association with Nugent."
Aside from calling Obama a "subhuman mongrel," critics have also pointed to a 2013 column by Nugent in which he said people here illegally should be treated like "indentured servants" until they "earn their citizenship."
In response to the Obama comments, Perry said on CNN's "Situation Room" that nobody should be surprised by Nugent making outlandish comments. But he condemned the tone Nugent struck on the president.
"That is not appropriate language to use about the president of the United States," Perry said. "The idea that Ted Nugent has said something outrageous shouldn't surprise anybody."