One photo in particular has drawn attention — the one in which the three high-profile visitors are seen posing in front of the official portrait of Hillary Clinton, when she was a first lady.
In the picture, Palin, Nugent and Kid Rock appear to be mocking Clinton, who has been the subject of sharp criticism and sometimes crude insults from the trio.
The photo, posted on Palin's Facebook page without a caption, has ricocheted around social media, thrilling Clinton haters and upsetting others who have called it “disrespectful” and “straight up classless.” Some in the latter camp have referred to Palin and her rock-star friends as “the redneck holy trinity.”
“What a bunch of disrespectful idiots,” one person wrote beneath the photo. “You call yourselves proud Americans and behave like 3rd graders in the White House. I don't care if you like her or not. You are disrespectful.”
Even Paul Begala, a former White House counselor to President Bill Clinton, had something to say about it.
“It’s a white trash Mount Rushmore,” the CNN pundit said Thursday on Anderson Cooper's show. “I love it. Look at them. That’s just perfect.”
Then he tweeted about his televised remarks.
It is hardly the first time controversial photos of White House visitors have attracted scrutiny.
Five years ago, during Obama's presidency, two gay activists from Philadelphia sparked a firestorm after photos showed them extending their middle fingers in front of President Reagan's portrait. The behavior of the activists, who were attending the White House's LGBT Pride Month Reception, earned an official rebuke after Philadelphia magazine reported on the photos — prompting considerable attention from conservative media outlets.
“While the White House does not control the conduct of guests at receptions, we certainly expect that all attendees conduct themselves in a respectful manner. Most all do,” a White House spokesman said at the time, according to Fox News. “These individuals clearly did not. Behavior like this doesn’t belong anywhere, least of all in the White House.”
Palin and friends didn't go that far, though bird-flipping was discussed, Nugent said after the dinner, tour and photo ops.
A post on Palin's blog noted that Trump invited the former Alaska governor to dinner and told her to bring some friends.
“It was the highest honor to have great Americans who are independent, hard-working, patriotic, and unafraid share common-sense solutions at the White House,” according to the blog post, “BEHIND THE SCENES: Photos From An Awesome Evening At The White House.”
She added: “Asked why I invited Kid Rock and Ted Nugent I joked, 'Because Jesus was booked.' "
As The Washington Post's Emily Heil reported, Nugent and Kid Rock (Robert James Ritchie) were among the few celebrities to support Trump on the campaign trail. Nugent is an outspoken Barack Obama critic and has regularly slammed Trump’s presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.
Nugent told the Detroit Free Press that it was his wife's idea to take the photo in front of Clinton's portrait.
“She said, 'You guys have to stop here; I’ve got to get a picture of this,' " he told the newspaper. “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.”
Mr. 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.”
On Palin's Facebook page, some of her supporters cheered the photo.
“Awesome … and the expressions are as appropriate as they are priceless!” one person wrote.
Palin, wrote another, “looks Great w Killary the Global Socialist Queen in the background.”
“Why the hell is that picture even still up. That would be the first thing I burn in the fireplace,” another person wrote.
Still, the criticism kept coming.
Among those chiming in, with an Instagram subtweet: Obama's former White House photographer.
Pete Souza, who often uses his archival photographs to compare his old boss with Trump, posted a photo Thursday showing Obama sitting with former White House chief of staff Bill Daley under an official portrait of Ronald Reagan.
The caption: “Being respectful.”
On CNN, after making his “white-trash Mount Rushmore” remark, Begala went on to say that he does admire Palin.
“She has spoken out when she has been the target of really vicious sexism from the left — and good for her,” Begala said Thursday. “She has defended her children when they have been attacked.”
“So it's kind of unfortunate that she's buddying up with Nugent, who … has said the most vile things about Hillary you can say,” he added. “And I think when those things had been said about Sarah Palin — and they have, it was outrageous then — I wish she would hold her friends to the same standard.”
This post has been updated.