NRATV employee: Attorneys will review how NRA's former ad firm is treating employees

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

An NRATV employee tells Media Matters that attorneys are likely to to review the legality of a move by former NRA ad firm Ackerman McQueen -- the company that produced NRATV until its shuttering last week -- to offer employees who work on NRATV help with health care costs in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement.

On June 25, The New York Times reported that the NRA was ending NRATV, its 24/7 online news outlet that featured live shows, prerecorded series, and archival video. The next day, the website was replaced by a message from NRA CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. The development was preceded by months of public infighting between the NRA and its longtime and deeply enmeshed ad firm Ackerman McQueen, which the NRA had contracted to handle its messaging initiatives to the tune in recent years of more than $40 million per annum.

In March, the Times reported that NRA leaders, including LaPierre, were publicly questioning the value of NRATV and expressing concerns that NRATV had run astray of its mission -- promoting pro-gun issues -- by focusing on other conservative interest topics. In particular, LaPierre was “livid and embarrassed” by a segment aired by NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch on her NRATV show that depicted characters from children’s show Thomas & Friends in Ku Klux Klan robes in an attempt to criticize diversity.

In a subsequent breach of contract lawsuit the NRA filed against Ackerman McQueen, the NRA alleged that Ackerman refused to turn over NRATV performance metrics data and information about other matters. Ackerman countersued the NRA, and both entities are presently suing each other for tens of millions of dollars. Beyond the shuttering of NRATV, other flashpoints in the public dispute have included the ouster of NRA President and Ackerman McQueen employee/NRATV host Oliver North during the NRA’s April annual meeting (the NRA alleged he had launched a failed coup attempt against LaPierre) and the leaking of documents allegedly showing lavish and questionable spending by LaPierre, including over $274,000 for clothing purchased from a Beverly Hills boutique and then billed to Ackerman.

On July 1, Washington Free Beacon staff writer Stephen Gutowski reported that Ackerman McQueen had placed NRATV employees on unpaid leave, immediately ended health care benefits, and offered “to reactivate their insurance” if employees sign a nondisclosure agreement:

As Gutowski pointed out, the offer from Ackerman seeks to treat staff who worked on NRATV as current employees even while not paying them or giving them benefits:

Reached for comment, an NRATV employee -- whom Media Matters will not name so that they can speak freely about the situation -- said that they believe “some attorneys are going to be looking at that NDA agreement” to evaluate whether Ackerman can legally avoid paying its NRATV employees while extending health care benefits only to those who will sign the agreement.