Sarah Wasko / Media Matters
An opinion column billed by the conservative Washington Examiner as an insider look at Washington, D.C.’s “secrets” is actually a lazy and credulous public relations front for the gun lobby.
In his Examiner Washington Secrets column, “longtime D.C. reporter” Paul Bedard has written dozens of pieces advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association, most often by amplifying the NRA’s attacks on others or by serving as a conduit for the NRA to put forward unsubstantiated talking points to defend itself from criticism.
The latter was the case in an April 1 column run under the headline “NRA is back, ‘highest ever’ membership.” In the column, Bedard claims that the NRA’s membership has increased to 5.5 million members -- the “highest levels ever in its history” -- and quotes an anonymous NRA official who told him, “Keeping our numbers so steady is a great sign for us in an off election year,” and “What’s important is that we have great potential for growth in the coming months.” Of course, Bedard does not mention reporting over the years showing that the NRA puffs itself up by overstating its active membership figures.
The column then gets to the PR point Bedard wants to push for the NRA: “The positive news for the NRA comes amid lingering concerns about a costly New York fight,” he wrote, a reference to litigation the NRA is involved in over fines given to insurance policies the group underwrote. The policies allowed policyholders to attempt to recoup legal fees and other expenses such as “clean-up costs” in the event that they shot someone while claiming to act in self-defense.
Overall, Bedard’s column paints a rosy picture of the NRA’s future -- “What’s more, there are expectations that membership in the NRA will continue to grow going into the 2020 elections” -- that is at serious odds with actual reporting on financial troubles at the NRA and its media operation NRATV.
The column is not a one-off shilling exercise by Bedard. In fact, he has written dozens of columns over the past six years that serve as free PR for the NRA, sometimes publishing more than one pro-NRA column per day. The columns typically do some sort of legwork for NRA PR, and they often feature one or more of the following approaches: heavy credulous quoting of NRA officials; write-ups of NRA ads with video and full transcript; and promotions of NRA fundraising, membership levels, events, petitions, election messaging, executive branch confirmation messaging, polling, legislative efforts, and disputes with other organizations, businesses, and people: