On February 21, CNN will host a town hall on gun violence set to include a wide spectrum of people affected by the Parkland, FL, school shooting. The National Rifle Association was invited to participate and chose to send its national spokesperson, Dana Loesch, to join “students, parents and community members” at the event, breaking with its decision to not participate in a similar 2016 CNN town hall. The NRA’s decision to send Loesch, who is also a far-right conservative commentator with a long history of inflammatory rhetoric, to represent the organization in a town hall discussion about gun safety and legislation that includes survivors of a mass school shooting, clearly demonstrates the extremist, fringe views the NRA has embraced to advance its cause.
NRA accepts invitation to participate in town hall, despite rejecting past invitation as an Obama administration PR move
NRA pushed the conspiracy theory that a previous CNN town hall on gun violence was “staged” by the Obama administration and refused to participate. In January 2016, the NRA declined CNN’s invitation to participate in a town hall event on gun violence with then-President Barack Obama. The gun rights organization alleged without evidence that the town hall was “staged and choreographed by the White House publicity machine,” that Obama was allowed to see questions in advance, that he had “personally selected” the town hall moderator, and that the White House had “personally selected” questions from the audience. Days after the event took place, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre challenged Obama to a televised debate, despite passing up his chance to confront Obama at the CNN event. [Media Matters, 1/15/16]
But in Trump era, NRA sends Loesch to represent group at CNN gun violence town hall. Following the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, CNN will hold a February 21 town hall amid renewed calls for gun reforms. National Rifle Association (NRA) spokesperson and frequent NRATV guest Dana Loesch will represent the gun rights organization during the event:
The National Rifle Association will participate in CNN's nationally televised town hall Wednesday with students, parents and community members who were affected by last week's school shooting.
After a gunman took the lives of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, lawmakers are facing renewed calls for legislation on gun reform.
The NRA accepted CNN's invitation to participate in the town hall and national spokeswoman Dana Loesch will represent the organization.
The CNN town hall, “Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action,” will also bring together the victims' classmates, parents and other community members, as well as Florida Rep. Ted Deutch and Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.
The NRA has given significant donations to various political candidates, including Rubio, who received two donations of $4,950 during the 2016 election from the NRA's political arm, The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund. [CNN.com, 2/21/18]
Loesch was hired by the NRA in 2016 and has quickly risen through the organization’s ranks
Loesch declared proposals to ban assault weapons were a “war on women” the same day NRA announced her hire in 2016. The NRA announced in June 2016 that Loesch had been hired as a “Special Adviser on Women’s Policy,” noting that she had previously appeared in commentary videos for the NRA’s media arm, then called NRA News. The day her hire was announced, Loesch appeared on Fox News to claim that proposals to ban assault weapons were a “war on women.” [The Washington Times, 6/16/16; Media Matters, 6/16/16]
Loesch was promoted to NRA’s national spokesperson in 2017. Loesch was promoted to serve as the NRA’s national spokesperson in February 2017. In addition to her spokesperson roles, Loesch makes daily appearances on NRATV, the gun group’s current media operation. [The Hill, 2/21/17]
Loesch also appeared in NRA-sponsored insurance ads that claim to offer protection against “the dead thug’s family” if you claim self-defense after shooting someone. She has also appeared in ads for NRA Carry Guard, a program launched in May 2017 that sells insurance that can pay for legal fees, clean-up costs, and other expenses incurred by people who claim self-defense after using their gun to shoot someone. Loesch pitched NRA Carry Guard in one 2017 ad by claiming that if you fatally shoot someone in self-defense “lots of lawyers will contact the dead thug’s family, lawsuit in hand, ready to feed a false narrative to the media.” [America’s 1st Freedom, 5/9/17; NRA Carry Guard, accessed 2/21/18; iSpot.tv, accessed 2/21/18]
Prior to joining NRA, Loesch was removed from CNN after inflammatory comment about urinating on dead Taliban soldiers
CNN took Loesch off the air in 2012 after she made inflammatory comments supporting Marines who urinated on dead Taliban soldiers. CNN had previously employed Loesch as a contributor until the network pulled her off the air in 2012 after she made comments in support of Marines who faced war crime allegations for urinating on the corpses of Taliban soldiers. Though Loesch’s suspension was never announced publicly, Tampa Bay Times media critic Eric Deggans cited a CNN executive, writing in his book that she was “effectively suspended.” [Media Matters, 11/1/12]
Loesch has a well-documented history of incendiary rhetoric on NRATV
Loesch starred in a widely criticized NRA ad targeting the resistance movement against President Trump with “the clenched fist of truth.” In a 2017 NRA video, Loesch characterized dissent against President Donald Trump as the “violence of lies” and said it should be countered with “the clenched fist of truth.” The video claimed that in their opposition to Trump or his policies, left-wing Americans “scream racism, and sexism, and xenophobia, and homophobia [and] smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.” She went on to say the only way to “save our country and our freedom” is with “the clenched fist of truth.” The ad conflated isolated incidents of property damage during anti-Trump protests with the resistance movement at large, giving viewers the false impression that protests against Trump are often violent. Months after the ad was released, the NRA reposted it to social media, sparking national controversy, including arguments by critics that it was an incitement to violence. [NRATV, 4/7/17; Media Matters, 8/28/17]
Loesch held a lighter to a copy of The New York Times in NRATV ad. In her latest ad for NRATV from February 7, Loesch held a lighter to a copy of The New York Times before saying “I don’t even have to do this” because the Times is “burning down” its reputation “all by yourselves.” The ad instructed viewers, “Fight their violence of lies with the fire of truth.”
Loesch to NY Times: “We're coming for you.” The NRA released an April 2017 video about The New York Times that alleged the paper had failed to cover major stories such as the Tea Party movement, Mexican drug cartel violence, and the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. A spokesperson for the Times responded that the paper had actually covered all the stories mentioned in the ad. In response, NRATV issued a video in which Loesch said, “Consider this the shot across your proverbial bow. We are going to fisk the The New York Times and find out just what ‘deep and rich’ means to this old gray hag, this untrustworthy, dishonest rag that has subsisted on the welfare of mediocrity for one, two, three, more decades. We're going to laser-focus on your so-called ‘honest pursuit of truth.’ In short, we're coming for you.” [NRATV, 4/10/17]
Loesch: “Rat bastards” in the mainstream media got “curb-stomped” by Trump’s victory. Loesch referred to herself as a longtime “huge critic of the media” on the November 23 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield. She went on to say mainstream media are “the rat bastards of the earth” and the “boil on the backside of American politics” and said she is “happy, just frankly, to see them curb-stomped” by Trump:
DANA LOESCH: I think that in a campaign there are certain things that you are going to hear and certain behaviors that you will see that will be tempered by the -- after the election -- tempered by simply just going into the White House. However, that being said, I don’t think that the -- for the lack of a better way to put it, the zero relationship with the mainstream media is going to be one of those things. Look, this media has not only impugned the character of half of the country, they’ve done this since 2008, 2009, they’ve definitely did this 2010, particularly when they were going to push the unaffordable health care act and get that passed. And they were trying to say that anyone who disagreed with it, “Well you may need to check your soul and have a talk with Jesus, because something is seriously wrong with you. It’s probably because the president is black.” That’s one of the things that we all heard over and over again. They questioned everybody’s character. And so I am actually happy, because I have long been a huge critic of the media. And I hate that what I do is considered part of it because I don’t consider myself part of them. However, I am very glad to see -- I said this actually on television not too long ago -- I am happy, just frankly, to see them curb-stomped. I mean, let’s be real about it, Grant. These people are just the worst thing that could ever possibly happen just to the American political system right now with the way that they cover so many things. For instance, when -- nobody gets a fair shake on policy, no one gets a fair shake where it concerns immigration. They conflate illegal and legal immigration. They conflate a number of things, particularly the coverage on gun control. I have so many things that I hate about mainstream media, there is no way we are going to fit it in the allotted time today. They are the rat bastards of the earth. They are the boil on the backside of American politics. I have no other nice way to put it. [NRATV, Stinchfield, 11/23/17]
In an NRATV ad, Loesch warned that Trump opponents “will perish in the political flames of their own fires.” In an October 2017 NRA ad, Loesch promised that opponents of Trump will fail in attempting to destroy the country and will “perish in the political flames of their own fires.” In the video, Loesch went on to accuse “the highest levels of government, [....] their media, universities and billionaires” of “driv[ing] their daggers through the heart of our future”:
DANA LOESCH: We are witnesses to the most ruthless attack on a president, and the people who voted for him, and the free system that allowed it to happen in American history. From the highest levels of government to their media, universities and billionaires, their hateful defiance of his legitimacy is an insult to each of us. But the ultimate insult is that they think we’re so stupid that we’ll let them get away with it. These saboteurs, slashing away with their leaks and sneers, their phony accusations and gagging sanctimony, drive their daggers through the heart of our future, poisoning our belief that honest custody of our institutions will ever again be possible. So they can then build their utopia from the ashes of what they burned down. No, their fate will be failure and they will perish in the political flames of their own fires. We are the National Rifle Association of America. And we are freedom's safest place. [NRATV, 10/20/17]
Loesch claimed penalizing gun owners for improperly storing firearms is “like shaming a rape survivor.” Loesch criticized a report from the Center for American Progress that argued “states should consider implementing laws or policies that require or incentivize gun owners to store guns securely to help protect against theft” by claiming adopting those policies were “like shaming a rape survivor.” From the July 28 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield:
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): All right, so the other that topic we talked about just a little bit earlier here is, this new study out -- now, I need everyone to know, the American Center for Progress (sic) is a left-wing group. They issued a study that gun thefts are up in the southern United States. They may or may not be, it doesn’t matter. The end result of the study is they want to increase storage laws and give penalties to the victims for not storing their guns properly, and they make no mention of going after the criminals.
DANA LOESCH: That's like shaming a rape survivor. It’s the exact same logic. How about this? How about they make tougher penalties for individuals who steal? Steal firearms. How about they have harsher punishments for those individuals who break the law? These individuals that they are seeking to punish haven’t broken the law. They have been victimized, as you accurately noted. So why in the world would they pass legislation that seeks to further victimize the already victims of these criminal acts? [Media Matters, 7/28/17, 7/31/17]
Loesch: Rep. “John Lewis … is posing to be a threat to democracy.” During the January 16 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, Loesch called civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) a “threat to democracy” after he announced he would not attend Trump’s inauguration and said Trump is not a “legitimate” president. Loesch called his actions “unfortunate” and said it’s not voters’ fault “if they refused to vote as John Lewis would have had them”:
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Yesterday on Meet the Press, John Lewis, the congressman who really is a civil rights hero, comes out and he says that Donald Trump’s presidency is illegitimate. He is doing this to delegitimize Trump’s entire presidency. I think it's anti-American, it's unpatriotic, and it's sad coming from a guy -- especially today, it's Martin Luther King Day. Lewis is a man who marched with Martin Luther King. I think it's sad.
DANA LOESCH: I think it is as well, and while I believe that Lewis is a civil rights icon, it's unfortunate that he chose to behave in this particular manner.
John Lewis, by his actions is -- he is posing to be a threat to democracy by refusing to acknowledge the results of this election, by refusing to acknowledge the results of the Electoral College. The individuals spoke and it's not their fault if they refused to vote as John Lewis would have had them voted (sic). [NRATV, Stinchfield, 1/16/17]
What is NRATV?
NRATV is the National Rifle Association’s pro-Trump propaganda outlet. Launched in October 2016, NRATV is a rebrand of the National Rifle Association’s long-running news outlet NRA News -- which began airing in 2004 -- with the aim of offering more live programming. NRATV broadcasts via online streaming at NRATV.com and satellite radio. Like with NRA News, the outlet’s operations are supported by the gun group’s advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen. While ostensibly a news outlet with a heavy focus on gun issues, NRATV has proven itself to be a platform for attacks on press freedoms and freedom of assembly, and pro-Trump propaganda defending anything the president does. [Media Matters, 8/28/17]