The National Rifle Association (NRA), in what The New York Times reported to be a “direct challenge to federal limits on political advocacy,” began broadcasting on June 17 a daily radio program called NRANews.com. According to the NRA, the program “constitutes news and commentary, not advertising.” By calling itself a media organization rather than an advocacy group, as the Times reported, NRANews.com is attempting to avoid restrictions imposed by the 2002 campaign finance law on the use of soft money to attack or praise candidates for federal office in the weeks before primaries, national conventions, and the general election.
According to the Times, while “other advocacy groups are required to stop running political commercials, 'NRANews' intends to continue broadcasting its reporting and commentary against politicians who favor gun control to Nov. 2 [Election Day].” Indeed, Media Matters for America monitored the show's first two broadcasts and found the program featured commentary against Senator John Kerry (D-MA) -- and that two prominent conservatives, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver L. North, called into the show to congratulate NRANews.com on the air for successfully skirting McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.
Liddy, a talk radio host and former Nixon operative who was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, called in to the June 17 broadcast to say, “You've gotten around what I consider to be, the Supreme Court of the United States to the contrary notwithstanding, a violation of the First Amendment and that is a restriction of freedom of speech, especially on the most important speech that we have, that is political speech, and the ... silence ... prior to an election is absolutely unconscionable. I congratulate you on finding a way to legally get the message out to the troops.”
Another caller to NRANews.com was North -- the FOX News Channel host and member of the NRA Board of Directors -- who was convicted of felony charges in connection with the Iran-contra scandal (though the conviction was later overturned by an appeals court). North called the new show to say, “Congratulations on NRANews and not letting something like McCain-Feingold prevent the truth from getting out to America.”
NRANews.com features Cam & Company, hosted by Cam Edwards, a former Oklahoma City radio talk show host who describes his politics as “primarily conservative” . During the June 17 broadcast, Edwards and John C. Sigler (the NRA's second vice president, who also called in to the show) took swipes at Kerry. During a discussion on gun control proponents in the Senate, Sigler called Kerry an “elitist” who “doesn't care about you and me.”
From the June 17 broadcast of NRANews.com:
SIGLER: [I]f you'll remember my speech, I likened Kennedy and Kerry to the Tories of past. Had they had their way the minutemen at Concord Bridge would have been defending our freedoms with pitchforks and clubs and things such as that because they wouldn't have had any firearms. ... Obviously that man [Kerry] ranks up there with some of the most notorious Tories of the times. ... This man [Kerry] may be a hunter, but if he is, he's a gentleman hunter. He's an elitist and he really doesn't care about you and me, and the guy at the gas station, and the guy who works at the plant. He doesn't care about us and our ability to hunt and put food on our table and pass the hunting heritage on to our children and grandchildren.
Edwards highlighted a New York Times article likening Kerry to a “caged hamster” and called it “good news for President [George W.] Bush:”
EDWARDS: A description of John Kerry from The New York Times, Jodi Wilgoren, I have to share this, this is perhaps one of the best ledes I've ever read, “Like a caged hamster, Senator John Kerry is restless on the road. He pokes at the perimeter of the campaign bubble that envelops him.” I love that, I mean, you know, yeah, if you're gonna -- “a caged blank” , fill in the blank --
CAM & COMPANY CREW: Tiger maybe?
CAM & COMPANY CREW: But a caged hamster?
CAM & COMPANY CREW: You know with friends like that who needs enemies?
EDWARDS: No kidding. So good news for President Bush.