The New York Times covered up the extremism of the fringe gun lobby organization Gun Owners of America (GOA) in an article highlighting the group's influence with Republican politicians.
Notably, the Times reported only that the group's leader, Larry Pratt, "worked briefly for Patrick J. Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign." While it's true that he "worked briefly" for Buchanan's campaign, the Times left out the reason Pratt's role was short-lived: he stepped down as co-chair of the campaign in response to reports that he had attended meetings organized by right-wing militia leaders and white supremacists.
The article describes GOA as an "upstart group" that has a "rising profile" and is "increasingly potent" because of its "loud" advocacy tactics on positions that "tend to veer farther right than those of the" National Rifle Association. It includes praise for the group from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Dean Heller (R-NV) and reports that the organization has been successful in "freezing senators, particularly Republicans" from taking positions in support of gun violence prevention legislation.
But the Times ignored the extremism of the group's leadership and the bizarre conspiracies they have adopted. The article describes Pratt, the organization's executive director, as follows:
Mr. Pratt, 70, has long been active in Republican politics. He served in the Virginia legislature in the 1980s, and he worked briefly for Patrick J. Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign.
That description of Pratt's service with Buchanan is inadequate, as the Times' reporting from February 18, 1996, indicates (via Nexis, emphasis added):
Last week, Larry Pratt, a co-chairman of the Buchanan campaign, took a leave of absence after the disclosure that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements.
Mr. Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said in an interview that he did not know the other speakers. He also said he did not harbor anti-Semitic or racist views, although his articles on gun ownership often appear in The Jubilee, a tabloid published in California by leaders of the Christian Identity movement, a white supremacist organization.
The Boston Globe provided more detail on Pratt's actions in a February 17, 1996 article (via Nexis), reporting that he "had attended a 1992 conference of militant white supremacists in Colorado in the aftermath of the shootout with federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho." According to the Globe:
Prominent participants at that meeting included Pete Peters, head of a group called Christian Identity, former Ku Klux Klan leader and Aryan Nation official Louis Bream and Aryan Nation founder Richard Butler. The Center for Public Integrity report also said Pratt attended a meeting in 1995 with militia leader Bo Gritz, at which racist and anti-Semitic material was available.
Newsday further reported in a March 1, 1996, article that Pratt had spoken out in favor of the creation of "armed militia units" at that meeting (via Nexis):
According to a recent book by Kenneth Stern, an official of the American Jewish Committee,Pratt used the meeting to criticize as inadequate the efforts of the National Rifle Association against gun control and to suggest a "national struggle for survival" with "armed militia units."
Pratt also spoke at least two other meetings organized by groups with racist agendas, Stern alleged.
Those meetings were not Pratt's only reported links to racist organizations. On February 17, 1996, thePittsburgh Post-Gazette reported (via Nexis) that Pratt "has ties to an Oklahoma group that sells anti-Semitic literature and has a history of participating in events that have featured political extremists."
In more recent days, Pratt and his organization have:
- Said that President Obama should be impeached if he uses an executive order to restrict gun rights.
- Said that legislation denying firearms to the dangerously mentally ill was "a dictatorial power" that "they use[d] ... in Nazi Germany."
- Is a fixture on Alex Jones' conspiracy radio show. In one representative appearance, Pratt suggested that that the shooting at an Aurora, CO, movie theater may have been staged.
- Agreed with an interviewer's suggestion that a race war is imminent.
- Pushed the conspiracy that the federal government deliberately trafficked guns to Mexican drug cartels as part of a plot to push stronger gun laws.