“It’s that bad”: a timeline of NRA’s recent inner turmoil

“It’s that bad”: a timeline of NRA’s recent inner turmoil

››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

Turmoil within the National Rifle Association was on full display during its 2019 annual meeting, when President Oliver North was forced out of his position amid reports of infighting and budget deficits and accusations of financial improprieties. The extremist pro-gun organization has been in chaos for months, and the infighting spilled into public view in March following the publication of a report on the exorbitant amount of money the NRA spends on a media operation, NRATV, that aired a particularly odious segment leaving several board members and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre “livid and embarrassed.”

Members of NRA leaderships were “livid and embarrassed” after NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch shared an image of Klan hoods on children’s show characters on her NRATV show

September 7, 2018: Loesch showed Thomas & Friends characters with KKK hoods on during her NRATV show. NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch tried to criticize diversity by showing an image of characters from the children's series Thomas & Friends wearing KKK hoods. Loesch shared the image to mock the show's addition of a female train from Africa, saying, “Clearly, this is overdue, right?” From the September 7 edition of NRATV’s Relentless:  

DANA LOESCH (HOST): Thomas the Tank is now bringing gender balance to the show by adding girl trains. Seriously. One of those trains, Nia, will be from Kenya to add ethnic diversity to the show. And -- which that, by the way, that’s where it gets really strange to me because I’ve looked at Thomas and Friends, at their pictures, and I see gray and blue. Am I to understand this entire time that Thomas and his trains were white? Because they all have gray faces. How do you bring ethnic diversity? I mean, they had to paint, what I guess they thought was some sort of African pattern on the side of Nia’s engine? How do you bring ethnic diversity to a show that literally has no ethnicities because they're trains. They don't even have skin pigmentation. Where -- was there some concern that the show had racist undertones? Because, Sir Topham Hatt clearly is white, but the trains? I mean, I’m looking at this picture and I’m really, really struggling to understand how in the world there isn’t any diversity in any of this. Oh, was it because, I see it. It was the white hoods. And the burning train tracks. OK, fine, fair point. Fair. I get it. Thomas the Tank Engine has been a blight on race relations for far too long. Clearly this is overdue. Right? [NRATV, Relentless, 9/7/18]

March 11, 2019: The New York Times reported that several board members “questioned the value” of NRATV following Loesch’s segment. After the segment aired, several board members “expressed concerns about NRATV … amid what was described as an internal review” of the media outlet’s future. NRA board member and past NRA President Marion Hammer went on the record to The New York Times saying that she and several other members “have questioned the value” of NRATV since it was founded, which the Times wrote underscores “a debate within the N.R.A. over how broad its activism should be.” Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre was reportedly “livid and embarrassed” after Loesch’s segment and “apologized to the entire” board. [The New York Times, 3/11/19]   

Amid a financial crisis, the NRA sues its own ad agency

April 12, 2019: The NRA files a lawsuit against its ad agency and producer of NRATV, Ackerman McQueen. On April 12, the NRA sued Ackerman McQueen, its ad agency for nearly 40 years which also produces NRATV. The complaint alleged that Ackerman McQueen “was obliged to provide access to records underlying its bills” but that as of halfway through 2018, some such requests from the NRA had been “rebuffed or baldly ignored.” The lawsuit also zeroed in on then-NRA President Oliver North, who has a contract with Ackerman McQueen to host the NRATV show Oliver North’s American Heroes. Overall, the lawsuit indicated that the NRA paid Ackerman McQueen $42.6 million in 2017. The NRA said it is required to disclose and approve its top officials’ pay, but that neither North nor Ackerman McQueen would share all the details of their contract. The lawsuit highlighted a split between board members who reportedly think the outside law firm representing the NRA in this suit and other litigation is charging too much and those who think the money is well spent as it is crucial to the gun group’s survival. [Media Matters, 4/15/19, The Wall Street Journal, 4/15/19]   

April 17, 2019: The Trace details a “desperate” financial situation and fractured board of directors. A Trace article written in partnership with The New Yorker exposed more than a decade of financial problems at the NRA, including that the group “has run annual deficits of as much as forty million dollars” and currently spends less than 10% of its budget on firearms education, safety, or training. Tax documents featured in the article show “a small group of N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders” received “hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, through gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements.” One senior NRA employee went as far as to “describe a workplace distinguished by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed.” Meanwhile, the NRA, “in desperate need of funds, raised its dues for the second time in two years” and cut costs by eliminating “free coffee and water coolers at its headquarters” and freezing employees’ pension plans. [Media Matters, 4/18/19]    

April 21, 2019: NRA board member Marion Hammer plans to attend her first meeting in years due to infighting. The Trace quoted a gun rights blog to report that “legendary NRA lobbyist and past president Marion Hammer, ‘who hasn’t attended a Board of Directors meeting since hell froze over,’” will attend the upcoming meeting because “it’s that bad.” [The Trace, 4/22/19]    

2019 NRA annual meeting devolves into infighting as North is ousted

April 24, 2019: NRA updates its civil lawsuit complaint against Ackerman McQueen, saying North “double-dipped by drawing a salary” from the group and the ad agency. On April 24, just two days before the annual meeting kicked off, the NRA updated its initial complaint against Ackerman McQueen to accuse its own president of “douple-dipp[ing] by drawing a salary from both the gun rights group and Ackerman McQueen at the same time.” The updated complaint also criticizes North’s documentary series with NRATV, claiming he didn’t deliver as many episodes as promised and that his series didn’t bring in the “hoped-for sponsorship cash.” [The Daily Beast, 4/26/19]    

April 26, 2019: Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre accuses North of trying to extort him. LaPierre sent a letter to the board of directors late in the afternoon during the first day of the NRA annual meeting accusing North of extorting him and pressuring him into resigning. He said North and Ackerman McQueen were threatening to send a letter to the board that “would contain a devastating account of our financial status, sexual harassment charges against a staff member, accusations of wardrobe expenses and excessive staff travel expenses” unless he resigned and withdrew the lawsuit. [The Wall Street Journal, 4/26/19]

April 27, 2019: North is forced out on the third day of the annual meeting. On April 27, then-NRA First Vice President Richard Childress read a letter from North, announcing he did not have the support to serve a second term as president and declaring “there is a clear crisis” within NRA leadership that “needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly.” Childress appears to have subsequently lost his vice president position, though he remains a member of the NRA board. [The Washington Post, 4/27/19, Twitter, 4/29/19]  

April 27, 2019: NRA suspends its top lawyer. Following North’s departure, Steve Hart, a longtime lawyer for the NRA board of directors, was reportedly suspended. Neither Hart nor NRA’s outside law firm would comment on his suspension. [The Daily Beast, 4/27/19]    

April 27, 2019: New York attorney general opens an investigation into NRA’s tax-exempt status.The New York attorney general’s office launched an investigation into the NRA’s tax-exempt status and has issued subpoenas, according to its spokesperson. The organization has reportedly received a document preservation notice and its outside lawyer has said the group will “fully cooperate with any inquiry into its finances.” [NPR, 4/27/19]   

April 29, 2019: NRA elected its newest president, who is on the board of an organization that maintains the largest Confederate monument in America. On March 29, the NRA board of directors elected Carolyn Meadows to succeed North as president of the NRA. Meadows, who sits on the NRA board of directors and was serving as the group’s second vice president, is also listed by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association as chairperson of its board of directors. The association maintains the largest memorial to the Confederacy in the U.S. -- a carving of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on horseback that is “42 feet deep and 400 feet above ground into a granite mountain.” [Media Matters, 4/29/19]

Posted In
Guns
Network/Outlet
NRATV
Person
Wayne LaPierre, Oliver North, Dana Loesch
Show/Publication
NRATV
Stories/Interests
National Rifle Association, Guns
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