During a campaign stop in Memphis this week, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry adeptly played to the rhetoric of unrest reverberating around Tennessee and beyond as a result of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s raid on Gibson Guitar.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, himself a critic of the Gibson raid and one of Tennessee’s highest profile Perry supporters, introduced the Texas governor during a fundraiser Sept. 28 at the Memphis Botanic Gardens.
Before striding to the mic, Perry took a quick detour over to the guitar player in the corner of the room.
“Let me come over here and make sure … yes, that’s what I thought that was. God bless you, that is a Gibson guitar!” Perry announced to the audience, which included local business leaders and GOP state lawmakers Rep. Mark White and Sen. Brian Kelsey.
“And you tell the government, ‘Keep your hands off of my Gibson!’,” Perry exhorted the musician.
That chop at the federal government over the Gibson raids in Nashville and Memphis was the latest in a chorus of opposition that’s grown in intensity ever since federal agents investigating whether the company illegally imported wood temporarily shut down the facilities. The government seized wood, electronic files and guitars.
A “We Stand With Gibson” rally, sponsored by several dozen Tea Party and Republican groups, is scheduled in Nashville at the Scoreboard Restaurant on Oct. 8 from 2-4 p.m. Speakers slated to appear include Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and talk radio hosts Steve Gill, Phil Valentine and Mark Skoda.
Musicians are also increasingly speaking out about the issue.
In a video posted to Gibson’s “This Will Not Stand” website, Sully Erna – a member of the heavy metal band Godsmack – said “I believe in their innocence, and I stand by them 100 percent as they fight to protect their rights.”
“When I went to Iraq the first time, I saw a great need for recreational musical instruments as a lot of the troops played, to one degree or another, but just didn’t have instruments to help while away the lonely off duty hours,” Daniels wrote. “When I got back stateside I started something we called Operation Heartstrings in an effort to provide instruments and strings to our men and women serving so far away from home. The first call I made was to Henry Juszkiewicz, the owner of the Gibson Guitar Company who, without hesitation, donated one hundred Gibson guitars and a gross or so of strings to the project.”
Wondered Daniels, “Is this what America has come to, that the resources of the United States government can be used to settle political scores by a petulant president and a totally out of control Justice Department?”
Supporters of the federal government’s actions in the Gibson saga say the agency is just following orders from Congress — including Tennessee Republicans who in 2008 voted to expand the scope of government’s authority to prosecute and seize property under the Lacey Act.