NRA Troubles Playing Across the Media

Aug 21, 2019

After taking time to watch a “Swamp Watch” feature in which populist host Steve Hilton laid out a list of now well-distributed reports documenting the lavish spending habits of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and his wife, one of my friends sent me a note that said “this must make you feel all warm and fuzzy.”

Actually, it makes me feel cold and empty.

Despite my half-century in the news business, and unshaken belief that one job of the media is to seek out and accurately report stories like this, there’s no joy in seeing an organization and its membership dragged through the mud due to the apparently unchecked spending habits of its CEO.

The NRA isn’t a bunch of executives pushing products to consumers, it’s supposed o be a non-profit organization supporting the interests of its five-million members.

When it comes to the Second Amendment, the collective interests of those members and mine converge.

I have been a reporter for half a century, but I’ve been a shooter/hunter even longer. I still own my first .22 caliber rimfire rifle and my first 35mm camera. Like me, they both show their age, but they still work as designed. Together, they represent two of my personal beliefs: the right to keep and bear arms and the obligation of a free press to present the facts in every matter.

With them intact and functioning as designed, I feel safe.

Without either, I’ve seen enough revolutions, wars and dictatorships to know what can happen. It’s neither pretty to watch nor pleasant to experience.

Throughout his time as CEO of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre has made it standard practice to belittle, insult and blame the media for most of what’s wrong in the country.

Today, we’re seeing first-hand what happens when the shoe goes on the other foot.

And it’s safe to say the ripples have only begun to spread across a very large pond. The media may be convicted of many things, but there’s no evidence that it has ever forgotten slights. And LaPierre has made a lucrative career out of using the media as red meat to his constituency.

This time, calling reporters names won’t cut it with his constituents. They’re worried.

And more unpleasant news leaked from the NRA yesterday as three more leaders have left. Deputy Director and general counsel of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action David Lehman has left the organization, and two more board members have resigned.

Country singer Craig Morgan announced his resignation, and the resignation letter of Richard Childress was leaked to the media from a variety of sources.

Childress may be remembered as having been the NRA’s shortest-tenured President-ever. As first vice-president, Childress seemingly stepped into the slot vacated by the inexplicable-absence of President Oliver North at the Annual Meeting in Indianapolis. Then, Childress read a letter from “my great friend” Oliver North”. The stunned members listened as North’s letter announced his dismissal as President, and repeated his strident call for the Board of Directors to seek an independent audit and try to make things right within the organization.

After reading the letter, Childress left the dais and for all intents and purposes, disappeared. Following the closed-door Board Meeting the following Monday, fervent LaPierre supporter Carolyn Meadows assumed the presidency.

Since then, it’s been a constant chain of charges, counter-charges, lawsuits -real and threatened, and an official lockdown of most communications from Waples Mill Road.

“It is with great regret and a heavy heart that I am informing you of my resignation from the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association of America, the NRA Foundation, Hunter’s Leadership Forum and all NRA committees on which I am currently seated, effective immediately,” Childress’s letter reads. It goes on to say the resignation is prompted by the necessity for Childress to “fully focus on my business” and makes no mention of the current controversies that continue to roil the organization’s membership.

Childress does make what some might consider an indirect comment toward the controversies, when he writes “My hope is that the NRA will move forward with a focus on its important mission of defending the Constitutional right of law-abiding citizens as provided in the Second Amendment, promoting firearm and hunting safety, enhancing our shooting sports, and educating the general public about firearms.”

“Rest assured,” it continues, “I will still be supporting may hunting and conservation initiatives that are near and dear to me. Of course, I will continue my work to defend our Second Amendment however possible, which I support with all my heart.”

That support seems to no longer include participation in the many NRA initiatives to which the legendary NASCAR boss’s name has frequently been attached. And with the loss of Morgan and Childress, two more celebrity spokespersons have made it clear their affiliation with the NRA has ended.

We’ll keep you posted.

--Jim Shepherd