Conservative activist David Keene, who finished serving a two-year term as National Rifle Association president in May, will join The Washington Times as opinion editor. The conservative newspaper has often provided a platform for opponents of stronger gun laws and for the promotion of the NRA.
In April, after a Senate proposal to expand background checks on gun sales was blocked by a predominately Republican coalition of senators, the Times editorial board fawned over the NRA, which was credited with influencing the legislation's defeat.
According to the Times, the failure of the proposal was, “a decisive victory for the National Rifle Association (NRA), which led the fight to protect the rights of all.” The April 18 editorial also employed the right-wing media canard that family members of victims of the December 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School who supported expanded background checks were used as “props” by the Obama administration “to make a political argument.” The April 18 Times opinion page also featured an op-ed that began, “I don't believe the families of the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., deserve a vote.”
Keene, an irregular contributor to the Times opinion page, has also used the Times to promote the interests of the NRA. In a March 27 op-ed, the then-NRA president complained about a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Bass Pro Shops over the allegation that the hunting and fishing supply company engaged in a pattern of racially discriminatory hiring practices. Beyond misleading on the substance of the lawsuit -- Keene wrongfully described it as an attempt by the EEOC to force Bass Pro Shops to hire felons -- at no point did Keene mention the NRA's business relationship with Bass Pro Shops, which includes a collaborative effort to open a 10,000-square foot firearms museum.
Keene, in his capacity as NRA president, often used interviews with Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller to promote his organization's message. Miller authors a blog about guns for the newspaper and is a frequent guest on the National Rifle Association's news programming. The 2011 recipient of the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund Harlon B. Carter - George S. Knight Freedom Fund Award, Miller also is a source of misinformation about gun violence. (She is reportedly “THRILLED about [her] new boss.” )
In a March 21 column for the Times, Miller endorsed the NRA's conspiracy theory that the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty is an Obama administration plot against the Second Amendment, citing Keene's statement to the Times that, “It is in the U.S. national interest to oppose [the treaty] -- on a whole host of grounds that should concern every American -- not just those of us dedicated to protecting Second Amendment rights.” In fact, the treaty seeks to prevent human rights abusers from obtaining weaponry and does not infringe on gun rights in the United States.
Keene used Miller's Times column to attack the Obama administration for hosting victims of gun violence at the 2013 State of the Union address. Miller wrote that Obama's speech “was carefully staged to promote his gun-grabbing second-term agenda,” before quoting Keene as stating, “The willingness of the president and his allies to so brazenly exploit the victims of violence to achieve their ideological and political goals strikes me as both over the top and, shall I say it, tasteless.” Keene added that Obama's guests were “not firearms victims, but the victims of criminals and irresponsible politicians so obsessed with stripping honest citizens of their rights.”
In a January 8 column where Miller argued that the Obama administration would attempt to impose “radical limits on the Second Amendment” in the wake of the Newtown massacre, Keene warned that, “This is going to be a long and tough fight because if [proponents of new gun laws] cannot roll back Second Amendment rights this time, they may not get another chance for years or even decades.”
Miller again turned to Keene in a December 4 column that criticized NBC Sports' Bob Costas for speaking out about gun violence after an NFL player killed his girlfriend with a handgun. Discounting that the shooting led to widespread commentary and debate over gun violence, domestic abuse and other issues, Keene told Miller, “I find it interesting that so many anti-gun spokesmen and -women are speaking up almost simultaneously in the days since Obama's re-election.”
The Times was also home to a long-running, inflammatory column authored by NRA board member Ted Nugent. Between May 2010 and December 2012, Nugent authored 184 opinion pieces for the Times. Nugent, who is well known for making divisive comments on the topics of race, gender, religion, homosexuality and immigration, often used the Times as a megaphone for his inflammatory views. In particular, Nugent engendered controversy in July 2012 when he wrote in a Times opinion piece, “I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”