Disgraced Iran-Contra figure Oliver North to become NRA president

Oliver North, a central figure in the 1980s Iran-Contra arms dealing scandal, will become the NRA’s president during the next few weeks, according to a report from CNN’s Dana Bash:

North’s ascendancy to the presidency is a deviation from the group’s standard succession for the position. In recent years, NRA presidents have served two-year terms. Current president Pete Brownell, a gun, ammo, and accessory retailer, was elected in 2017, meaning that he will leave his term a year early.

Additionally, for the past several terms, after serving two years, the NRA president has been succeeded by the group’s first vice president. For example, Brownell was first vice president during the term of NRA President Alan D. Cors between 2015 and 2017. Cors had served as first vice president during Jim Porter’s two-year term, which began in 2013.

A statement released by the NRA confirming North will become president noted that “to devote his full time and energy to his family business,” Brownell would not seek re-election. The statement did not explain why Brownell is leaving before his term expires.

It is also unclear whether the change in succession will change the role of the president; NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has far more control over the organization's direction.

North is a current member of the NRA board of directors, with a term that expires in 2019, and is also the co-host of a show on the NRA’s media operation NRATV. He has also been a longtime contributor for Fox News but will leave that position effective immediately, according to the NRA statement.

Along with his involvement in the Iran-Contra arms dealing scandal -- for which his convictions for several felonies were overturned in 1990 -- North has a history of using inflammatory rhetoric and has been enmeshed in other controversies:

  • During a 1993 GOP fundraising dinner that proceeded North’s failed run for Senate, North “told the crowd that he tried to telephone [Bill] Clinton, but the White House switchboard wouldn’t let him through until he disguised his voice with a lisp,” according to the Williamson Daily News. When asked to apologize by an LGBT group, North responded, “If it angered some subset, that’s their problem.”
  • During a 2010 appearance on Fox News, North argued that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would lead to pedophiles being admitted into the armed forces. North also wrote a Fox News opinion piece in which he argued that, by repealing the policy, Obama would succeed where Adolf Hitler and other dictators failed in destroying the U.S. military.  
  • North claimed in 2010 that Obama had a “core philosophy of being anti-American.”
  • North’s charity Freedom Alliance was accused from the left and right of misappropriating funds meant for scholarships.
  • Writing at The Patriot Post in 2010, North recounted a conversation he had with a man who told him, “I believe slavery was evil. But the way our government is acting today, I think I understand why the South seceded.” North said that the man’s comments were “strong stuff” before comparing Obama to President James Buchanan.
  • During a 2011 speech at the NRA annual meeting, North said, “We need a commander-in-chief who cares more about the troops he leads than his birth certificate,” referring to Obama addressing the smear that he wasn’t born in the United States.
  • In 2012, North was accused of plagiarism after language from a Vietnam veteran’s memoir appeared in his column for Fox News without attribution.
  • While appearing on Fox News in 2012, North called a remote Afghan region “Injun country.”
  • During a 2013 appearance on NRA News, North called the Civil War “the War Between the States,” a Confederate term.
  • As recently as 2013, North was still falsely insisting that Iraq's late President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
  • The Intercept reported in 2017 that North and Blackwater founder Erik Prince were in talks with the Trump administration about the creation of a “a global, private spy network” that would serve “as a means of countering ‘deep state’ enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency.”