Journalists who have been included on what is being called an “enemies list” of the National Rifle Association are speaking out about the designation, either welcoming the attention as a badge of honor for their work or criticizing the NRA for trying to intimidate them.
The list of 506 organizations, public officials, celebrities, and others was first posted on the NRA web site in September. After being highlighted online last week it has been widely covered and described as an “enemies list” by critics.
The NRA web site lists 37 columnists, cartoonists, and editors along with other organizations and public officials it sees as opponents of its efforts under the headline “National Organizations With Anti-Gun Policies.”
The list claims that the journalists in question “actively editorialize in favor of gun control laws.”
Several of those news people on the list criticized the NRA for the move in comments to Media Matters.
“I am proud to be on the NRA 'enemies' list,” said Frank Rich, a former New York Times columnist currently writing for New York magazine. “But it says a lot that I didn't even know I was on it until [Media Matters] told me today. It just goes to show that NRA in the 21st-century is becoming something of a paper tiger and shouldn't intimidate anyone, including members of Congress. An 'enemies list,' after all, is a lame retread from the Richard Nixon playbook of Watergate.”
E.J. Dionne, syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, welcomed being on the list, but offered concern such an effort might intimidate some non-journalists.
“Since I have long favored gun control and written rather passionately about the issue, I guess I would have been disappointed if I had not been on the NRA's list,” he wrote in an email. “I don't think it is intimidating to opinion writers to be on such a list, but I wonder if it might intimidate people in other lines of work. I certainly hope not.”
Mike Luckovich, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution since 1989, also welcomed the honor. He also called the NRA “crazed” about guns and describe them as “idiots.”
“I love that,” he said of his spot on the list. “Their gun zealotry has driven them insane. They have become so crazed about guns. They are like spoiled teen-agers, it is like 'their way or the highway.' When their insanity becomes almost evil in what's happening in America, I want to just keep hitting these idiots as much as possible. Other than that, I am wishy-washy on the whole thing.”
Bill Johnson, a veteran columnist currently at The Orange County Register, found it funny to be on the list since he is a gun owner, adding he does urge what he described as common-sense precautions for safety.
“I think I first got on years ago when I was at the Rocky Mountain News and was an extremely loud and rabid, hand-in-the-air, card-carrying gun hater. I wrote so many columns decrying guns and their use in absolutely senseless crimes,” he said in an email. "Intimidating me? I found it quite humorous, and a bit of a badge of honor to be on that list. Someone even mailed me a t-shirt acknowledging my presence on that list.
“The funny thing is, I have over the years moderated my utter contempt for guns. Living in Denver for 16 years, I guess, will do that to a man. I have my three hunting shotguns and my elk rifle, and only last year purchased for my wife a .22-caliber handgun, the first one I EVER purchased. It is buried somewhere in a closet here. I remain hopelessly anti-assault weapon in my views, still believe there is handgun cancer in this country, that there is little, if any good use for one, and will believe so until the day they plant me. Intimidated? Oh, if I am still making the NRA do flips, spit and curse, well, you have just made my day.”
Stuart Carlson, editorial cartoonist with Universal Press Syndicate and former 25-year staff cartoonist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said such a list is “unconscionable” today.
“I thought enemies lists went out with Richard Nixon,” he said upon hearing he made the list. “If you are known by the enemies you make, I guess I am in good company. I have long thought the NRA was too influential and disagreed with them. Lately I think it is unconscionable in the wake of the Newtown shootings they seem to be behaving as though nothing has changed. Even background checks are anathema to them.”
Asked what he thinks of the NRA trying to intimidate journalists this way, Carlson called it “thuggish”: “They are apparently good at intimidating public officials, why not journalists? It is time people spoke up and said enough of this crap. I don't feel any intimidation personally.”
Tony Auth, former cartoonist at the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1971 to 2012 and now at WHYY Radio, called his place on the list an honor.
“If you believe that this country's relationship with guns is insane and you want to do something about it, of course you would want to be on the NRA's enemies list,” he said. “If you want gun control and of course you would want to be on this list. The NRA is so wrong-headed and obtuse. It reminds me of Nixon's enemies list. It is not intimidating. Another reflection of the world we live in where people live in their own bubble and look at opinions they agree with.”
For Tom Fiedler, former editor and columnist at The Miami Herald, now dean of the College of Communication at Boston University, being cited by the NRA is a point of pride.
“As for being on the NRA's 'enemies list,' which comes from my days as a columnist and editorial-page editor at The Miami Herald, I am tremendously proud! What great company to be among,” he said. “One quibble, though: I don't consider myself an advocate of gun control, but rather an advocate for gun safety. My thing is that under a literal reading of the Second Amendment people should have the right to own a muzzle-loading gun of the kind that was in use when the Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights, but they must also pass a competency test to obtain a license and they must purchase liability insurance - just as law-abiding citizens do with automobiles. What's so radical about that?”
Then there is Jimmy Breslin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist at Newsday and the New York Daily News and a current author, who reacted by stating: “Put me first on the list.”