For years a mutually advantageous relationship has existed between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and firearm manufacturers. The gun industry donates huge chunks of cash -- as much as $38.9 million from 2005 to 2011 -- to the NRA, and the gun rights organization in turn engages in hysterical fearmongering to promote gun sales. One hand washes the other. And now the Daily Caller is joining the action by offering its readers discounted NRA memberships.
It was only a matter of time before the gun-loving Daily Caller recognized the benefit of shilling for the gun industry and its unofficial PR wing, the NRA. In recent months the online publication has been heavily promoting the NRA while offering its readers perks in the form of a weekly handgun giveaway.
But as material published this week demonstrates, increasingly unabashed promotion of the NRA and FMK Firearms calls the Daily Caller's credibility as a news source further into question.
On Wednesday Mike Piccione, editor of the Daily Caller's Guns and Gear section -- which features firearms advertisements, NRA press releases, and other pieces of dubious gun "reporting" -- announced that Daily Caller readers were eligible to purchase discounted NRA memberships. Piccione offered a number of childish reasons for signing up, including, "Joining the NRA is the equivalent of giving [New York City Mayor] Michael Bloomberg the finger."
The ethical implications of a journalism outlet directly helping to fill the coffers of special interest group are certainly weighty. How can one trust the Daily Caller's reporting on the NRA -- which gets itself into the headlines all the time -- when it accepts advertising money from the group and urges its readers to purchase memberships?
The Daily Caller is clearly unconcerned. Nor does it see any problems in publishing columns by Jim Pontillo, who donates the guns for the weekly giveaway from his company FMK Firearms. Pontillo was probably happy for the exposure considering that in previous columns for other online outlets he offered casual racism aimed at the President and defended the Confederacy.
In a Daily Caller column published on Tuesday, Pontillo took umbrage with comments that President Obama made about small business owners (which were taken out of context by Fox News and other right-wing outlets). In his column, Pontillo made clear his feelings about people receiving government assistance:
How much of my success can I attribute to my hard work? Do I owe thanks to the welfare recipients you enrich at my expense? While they sit in government-subsidized housing, talking on their iPhones, viewing Netflix movies on their plasma TVs and eating dinners purchased with government food stamps, I sweat 80 to 100 hours a week trying to make my small business succeed.
Such uninhibited bashing of the needy might (or at least should) embarrass a reputable publication. Other publications might think to avoid mainstreaming a racist crackpot. But the Daily Caller wants to keep giving away guns, so they're sticking with Pontillo for the time being.