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  • The death of NRATV: A timeline of the fight between NRA and its advertising agency

    NRATV added KKK hoods to beloved children's TV characters. It sparked the end of the network itself. 

    ››› ››› 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.” In June, the NRA suspended its second-in-command Chris Cox following an alleged coup attempt against LaPierre. Now the NRA and ad firm Ackerman McQueen, which produced NRATV, are suing each other for tens of millions of dollars while trading salacious allegations of financial misdeeds, which caused the collapse of the network itself. 

  • NRATV host: Allowing gun manufacturers to face civil liability is “tyranny”

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    NRATV host Grant Stinchfield called a proposal allowing gun manufacturers and dealers to face civil liability lawsuits a form of “persecution” and “tyranny.”

    Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) rolled out an eight-point plan to curb gun violence on June 17, presenting it outside the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Virginia. The plan includes repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and allowing victims of gun violence to sue firearm manufacturers.

    Passed in 2005, the PLCAA prohibits “qualified civil liability actions” which “result from the criminal or lawful misuse” of firearms or ammunition from being brought against their manufacturers. Though there are a few specific exceptions to the law, no other type of industry has this kind of blanket civil immunity. Democrats in Congress recently proposed repealing the PLCAA by introducing the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act.

    During the June 19 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield said repealing the protections for gun manufacturers would be using “your government to persecute a group of people” and called it “tyrannical behavior.” He went on to claim that Swalwell’s ultimate goal is to put gun manufacturers “out of business”:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): It is an outrageous proposal, it is an anti-freedom proposal, and it is persecution. And in fact, I could also throw it onto the list of tyranny. Because when you use your government to persecute a group of people -- whether it’s gun manufacturers, whether it’s you or me -- that is tyrannical behavior and the only reason he does that is because he doesn’t believe in what they are producing or manufacturing, he doesn’t believe in what we are saying or supporting: the Second Amendment. So in the end, he wants lawsuit after lawsuit to pile up against these manufacturers, blaming them for crimes they have nothing to do with, to ultimately put them out of business so they can’t manufacture any more guns, so you can’t buy them, so ultimately they disappear after he buys them all back and the people who don’t sell them back are all thrown into prison. What a country. Is that what you want to live in? I don’t think so.

  • NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch employs lies in expressing opposition to bill to ban people convicted of a violent hate crime from buying a gun

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch referred to a bill aimed at preventing those convicted of a violent misdemeanor hate crime from obtaining a gun as “redundant,” “unconstitutional confiscations” of firearms and falsely claimed it’s creating a “new classification of felony.”

    In May, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced Senate and House versions of The Disarm Hate Act , which would make it illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime to purchase a firearm. The bill defines “misdemeanor hate crime” as a misdemeanor under federal, state, or tribal law that “was motivated by hate or bias because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity ... or disability of any person” and that “involves the use or attempted use of physical force, the threatened use of a deadly weapon, or other credible threat to the physical safety of any person.” Currently, individuals convicted of such crimes can legally purchase firearms in many states.

    Loesch suggested the law would treat misdemeanors like felonies, saying it would create a "new classification of felony," but instead it simply expands the list of prohibited gun possessors. And some misdemeanor convictions already carry a gun-purchase prohibition under federal law, such as the federal prohibition on individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. Laws prohibiting individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors from buying guns have been repeatedly upheld by courts, casting doubt on Loesch’s suggestion that the Disarm Hate Act would be unconstitutional. The NRA spokesperson also managed to claim that this proposed law is redundant when it is actually an expansion of current federal law and when only 30 states currently have “misdemeanor hate crime” definitions and only six of those prevent someone convicted from purchasing a firearm.

    During the June 10 edition of her NRATV show, Relentless, Loesch also cast doubt on the premise that those convicted of a hate crime are more likely to commit another violent crime. She went on to suggest a hate crime definition isn’t actually necessary because “all crime is hate”:

    DANA LOESCH (HOST): Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey has decided that in order to stop shootings like the one that took place in Virginia Beach, lawmakers need to disarm those convicted of a hate crime.

    LOESCH: Sen. Casey is just the latest of many looking to expand the scope of unconstitutional confiscations further. With me now to discuss the Disarm Hate Act, columnist Salena Zito, who does great work, by the way, covering mid-America stuff, and she did great work doing that for the last election. Salena, this from Bob Casey. He seems to be doing a couple of things. He wants to create a new classification of felony, it seems, but also why is he just not going after the individuals who are committing these crimes and making sure these prosecutions for these felonious acts committed with a firearm, that these people aren’t prosecuted?

    SALENA ZITO: Well, first of all, I should tell you I’ve known David West almost all of my life and I was thrilled when that ruling came down. So that was really, really good news. In terms of what Sen. Bob Casey is doing, I think this is a way to chip away at gun laws and gun control until they finally sort of get where they want. And so it’s like going, it’s like a moth trying to go around into a light. At some point it finds its way into the light, sometimes. And I think that that’s what they’re trying to do with these different laws. And it really makes no sense not to go over quote unquote -- go after quote unquote “the bad guys” but instead going after people who have the legal right to own a gun.

    LOESCH: Yeah, and the actions that he is -- or the criminal actions that he’s talking about specifically, he’s looking at misdemeanor hate crime which he said often leads to violent felony with a gun. I would love to see his data on that. But it seems redundant. I mean, you know, hate crime -- all crime is hate, that’s almost an entirely separate issue here, but there is a larger discussion that has been taking place in the country with lawmakers trying to create even more classifications of felonies. I know that there is a crime-a-day account on Twitter that I love to look at every single day. There are so many things that people are doing every day that they don’t even realize or see that they don’t even realize are felonies. If someone commits one of the acts that’s already under law as being so awful that you become ineligible to have a firearm, I mean, doesn’t that really cover it? It seems like he’s kind of creating a redundancy also.

    In fact, individuals with prior violent misdemeanor convictions are nine times more likely to commit another violent crime and nine times as likely to commit other firearm offenses. According to The Giffords Law Center, researchers have said those who commit hate crimes are “an even greater risk to public safety because” they tend to escalate their offenses.

    Loesch used similar tactics to spread misinformation and outright lies about the Violence Against Women Act in April, criticizing a House bill to expand the definition of “intimate partner” under federal law to all dating partners by falsely claiming all dating partners were already included in the current federal law definition.

  • NRATV host takes seemingly veiled shot at NRA leadership

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    NRATV host Grant Stinchfield on Friday offered a scathing critique of his critics that seemed aimed at the leadership of the National Rifle Association. The NRA has been feuding with its ad firm, which produces NRATV.

    “If you think I’m too blunt, our words are too strong, quit your whining, get serious about this fight or move over and let someone else fight for you,” Stinchfield said during his June 7 show. He also denied that he has ever broadcast any extreme content on NRATV.

    In March, members of NRA’s leadership, including CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, publicly questioned the value of NRATV, which the NRA contracts ad firm Ackerman McQueen to produce, and expressed concern about the inflammatory content it airs.

    The NRA and Ackerman McQueen are now wrapped up in multimillion-dollar lawsuits and are making salacious allegations of financial misdeeds against each other. The infighting has resulted in the ousting of former NRA President Oliver North (who remains an employee of Ackerman McQueen) and has exposed a rift at the NRA that puts a pro-LaPierre faction that questions the value of NRATV against a pro-North faction that supports the network.

    On May 29, Ackerman McQueen submitted a notice of intent to terminate its nearly four-decade-long partnership with the pro-gun organization. The NRA responded with a statement that said it can now refocus its messaging back to issues related to firearms. As of June 2, the NRA acknowledged that the concept of NRATV “remains under review.”

    Even though the NRA and Ackerman McQueen have apparently agreed to terminate their relationship, NRATV has, for now, continued to air as usual. And during his June 7 broadcast, Stinchfield seemed to critique the leadership at the NRA. He also attempted to justify his decision to regularly cover issues unrelated to firearms on his show, saying, “Make no mistake: All the issues we face today, from immigration to spending to the battle over our guns to the war on terror and free speech, they are all connected. If you only fight for the Second [Amendment], you ignore the others”:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): I laugh at those who claim the NRA is an extremist group. Some even call us terrorists. Others say NRATV is a right-wing propaganda machine. Have these people seen or heard what those on the left say and do? We don’t push hate, we push truth. I challenge anyone to tell me one thing I’ve said on this network that’s extreme. I call out the media’s bias, I point to their-almost daily lies, I back up my points with facts, I support the Second Amendment and I push and fight for freedom daily. But then again, to those on the left, all that is extreme. Supporting the values America was founded on, to them, is extreme.

    The New York Times and The Washington Post have done everything in its power to disparage and destroy the NRA. These media outlets, along with MSNBC and CNN, know that to get to the Second [Amendment], they have to go straight through the NRA, and who do you think is on the front lines of that information war? NRATV.

    So yes, I will call out the left’s bullcorn. And I will tell the world again and again, you are either with us or against us. Because this battle that we are engaged in, yes it can be harsh, it is not for the faint of heart, but it is for the soul of this nation. Our rights are absolute. So is our straight talk. And make no mistake: All the issues we face today, from immigration to spending to the battle over our guns to the war on terror and free speech, they are all connected. If you only fight for the Second, you ignore the others. If you only fight for the others, the Second will be destroyed and the others will soon follow. My commitment is to never give up. If you think I’m too blunt, our words are too strong, quit your whining, get serious about this fight or move over and let someone else fight for you. 2020 is almost here, and if we lose that one election, we could lose so much more. So join us, join the five-and-a-half million members of the NRA. Stand and fight with us.

    While defending his rhetoric, Stinchfield challenged “anyone” to show him his extremism on NRATV, which is well-documented. It ranges, in topic, from immigration and sexual assault and includes white nationalist talking points and conspiracy theories.

  • NRATV host calls judge's decision to give probation to child rapist "liberal leadership," but the judge is Republican

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    On the National Rifle Association’s media outlet, NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield blamed “liberal leadership” for a rapist who received no jail time -- even though the judge in the case is a registered Republican.

    On April 25, a former school bus driver in Watertown, NY, received 10 years' probation and “the lowest level status on New York’s sex offender registry” after he pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old girl. When issuing the ruling, Judge James P. McClusky pointed out that the defendant “had no prior arrests and that there was only one victim in the case,” according to The Washington Post.

    During the April 30 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, Stinchfield railed against McClusky’s decision, calling it an example of “liberal leadership” that “give(s) passes to the criminals.” Stinchfield went on to say that “actions have consequences,” which is “a staple of the justice system, unless of course you’re a liberal”:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): You’ve got to be kidding me. Really? He made the choice to  do what he did. He made the choice to change that 14-year-old girl’s life forever, and somehow the judge buys into the fact that he’s sorry and we should feel sorry for him? No jail time needed? This is what liberal leadership is: Give passes to criminals. While the victim’s mother clearly isn’t happy about all this. Quote -- is what she says: “He took something from my daughter she will never get back and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety. I wish he would have received jail time for the harm he caused to my child.” We all do, at least those of us with common sense and those of us who believe actions have consequences. A staple of the justice system, unless of course you’re a liberal.

    In reality, McClusky is a registered Republican and was endorsed by both the Republican and Conservative parties when he ran for the New York Supreme Court’s 5th Judicial District in 2011.

  • NRATV misrepresents what happened during Poway synagogue shooting to push pro-gun propaganda

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s media arm, NRATV, broadcast a false retelling of the April 27 California synagogue shooting in order to credit an armed worshipper with “almost instantly” stopping the incident. In fact, the gunman was confronted and chased out of the synagogue by an unarmed worshipper.

    On April 27, a 19-year-old gunman opened fire in the Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego, CA, killing one and injuring three others. According to witnesses, the gunman’s semi-automatic rifle jammed and that gave U.S. Army veteran Oscar Stewart an opportunity to chase him out of the building before another worshipper, Jonathan Morales, an off-duty Border Patrol agent, fired several shots at the gunman’s car. Stewart told The San Diego Union-Tribune that he “screamed as loud as he could” to startle the gunman before chasing him out to his car. Stewart then began punching the gunman’s car before the agent advised him to move out of the way so he could fire on the vehicle. The gunman was arrested a short time later after he pulled over and called 911 on himself.

    In a manifesto that he allegedly wrote before the shooting, the gunman claimed responsibility for setting a nearby mosque on fire in March, and championed previous hate crimes including the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand and the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, PA.

    During the April 29 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield erroneously claimed “the shooter was almost instantly chased out of the sanctuary by an off-duty Border Patrol agent with a gun.” He went on to say “That confrontation, I am convinced, prevented the shooter from killing others,” failing to mention the rifle malfunction or Stewart, who had actually rushed the gunman:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Religious leaders across America are on edge as a deranged, hate-filled teen entered a California synagogue killing one woman and wounding three others, including the rabbi. There is so much not being reported about this story that needs to be. This synagogue actually trained for an active shooter situation. The rabbi says that training saved lives. The shooter was almost instantly chased out of the sanctuary by an off-duty Border Patrol agent with a gun. No matter what you say, that confrontation, I am convinced, prevented the shooter from killing others. Then, even with all the California gun laws, the shooting still happened. With guns bans and waiting periods, mandates for classes, this vile human responsible still managed to get a gun and go on this rampage. These are the stories the mainstream media refuses to cover. Sometimes there are brief mentions of these issues, but almost always buried at the bottom of the piece. The strength of Americans is what should be celebrated after this horrific loss.

    NRA spokesperson and NRATV host Dana Loesch also retweeted frequent NRATV guest Amy Swearer misrepresenting the facts of the shooting.

    In the wake of the Christchurch shootings on March 15, Loesch also ran with an early and ultimately false report that a “good guy with a gun” fired at the gunman and stopped the incident. The gunman in that incident was actually confronted by a man who threw a credit card reader at him, but Loesch never issued a correction for her claim.

  • The New Yorker highlights the NRA’s “desperate” financial situation amid reports of infighting over NRATV

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    A new article in The New Yorker gives an extraordinary glimpse into the NRA’s increasingly dire financial situation and an internal rift over the production of its media outlet, NRATV.

    The article comes on the heels of news that the NRA is suing Oklahoma-based Ackerman McQueen, the group’s ad agency that also produces NRATV, for allegedly ignoring the NRA’s request for “access to records underlying its bills.” NRA President Oliver North also has a contract with Ackerman McQueen to host an NRATV show, and while the NRA says it must disclose and approve its top officials pay, the lawsuit alleges neither North nor Ackerman McQueen will share the details of their contract.   

    The lengthy April 17 article, written by Mike Spies of The Trace and published in partnership with The New Yorker, exposed more than a decade of financial problems at the NRA, reporting that “in recent years, it has run annual deficits of as much as forty million dollars.” The article points out the NRA spends less than 10% of its budget on firearms education, safety, and training, and instead focuses on “messaging,” using Ackerman McQueen to shape its “public identity” by “promoting a life style built around loving guns and hating anyone who might take them away.”

    Several NRA figures, including North and NRA national spokesperson and NRATV host Dana Loesch, also have contracts with the ad agency, making it “difficult to tell” of the NRA and Ackerman McQueen “where one ends and the other begins.” According to the New Yorker piece, Ackerman McQueen is also responsible for turning NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre into a “ferocious critic of the political left” and creating “the Wayne cult of personality” around his appearances at NRA annual meetings and other conservative gatherings.

    Tax documents obtained by Spies reportedly 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.

    This reporting on the organization’s desperate financial state and the rift among its employees comes less than six months after layoffs hit the network and a little over a month after former NRA president and current board member Marion Hammer went on record to The New York Times that she and other board members "have questioned the value" of NRATV.

    The NRA’s media platform has been a cesspool of bigotry and extremist talking points for over a decade. Those characteristics were on full display when Loesch shared an image on her NRATV program of the trains from the children’s TV show Thomas & Friends wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods to protest the show’s focus on diversity. The move reportedly left LaPierre “livid and embarrassed,” according to The Times.   

    This post has been updated for clarity.

  • New lawsuit highlights major infighting between NRA, NRATV, and their production company

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The National Rifle Association has filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma City-based Ackerman McQueen, which has been the group’s ad agency for nearly 40 years and produces the pro-gun extremist network NRATV.

    According to The Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit was filed on April 12 and claims 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 zeroes in on NRA President Oliver North, who has a contract with Ackerman McQueen to host the NRATV show Oliver North’s American Heroes. The NRA says it is required to disclose and approve its top officials’ pay, but that neither North nor Ackerman McQueen will share all the details of their contract.

    The article highlights a split between the “pro-Ackerman McQueen faction” of the NRA’s board, who think the law firm leading the lawsuit is charging too much, and those who think it is “money ... well spent, because it’s for the survival of the NRA,” which reportedly includes Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.    

    Ackerman McQueen and the NRA have long had a symbiotic relationship. The NRA's lawyer who is handling the lawsuit is related to two top Ackerman officials, and some employees have worked with both organizations, either alternating or at the same time. The ad agency was responsible for some of the NRA’s darker videos and helped former NRA President Charleton Heston hone his imagine as he led the organization.

    This latest bout of infighting, however, comes a little over a month after NRA board member Marion Hammer went on record to The New York Times questioning “the value of” NRATV network and less than six months after layoffs hit the network.

    The NRA’s media platform has been a cesspool of bigotry and extremist talking points for over a decade. Those characteristics were on full display last month when NRA spokesperson and NRATV host Dana Loesch shared an image of the trains from the children’s TV show Thomas & Friends wearing KKK hoods to protest the show’s focus on diversity. The move reportedly left LaPierre “livid and embarrassed.”