Between executive infighting and ongoing questions surrounding possible Russian financing, the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) woes show no signs of slowing.
Now, the NRA has announced its latest casualty as its slow collapse continues: NRATV, the organization’s primary media arm.
As the New York Times reported late Tuesday evening, the NRA has shut down production of its firebrand streaming service. NRATV, the Times reported, “may continue to air past content,” but its “live broadcasting will end.” Moreover, some of the outlet’s most notorious on-air personalities — including, most especially, Dana Loesch — “will no longer be the public faces of the NRA.”
NRATV has long been a lightning-rod of criticism for the NRA. Much of that criticism has centered on the fact that NRATV, rather than highlighting specifically gun-related news, has instead transformed into an outlet dedicated to the type of culture-war rhetoric aimed at the broader Republican base — a business model that has also recently begun attracting criticism from longtime NRA supporters.
NRA President Wayne LaPierre pointed directly to this internal criticism in a statement issued Wednesday on the NRA’s site. “Many members expressed concern about the messaging on NRATV becoming too far removed from our core mission: defending the Second Amendment,” LaPierre wrote. “So, after careful consideration, I am announcing that starting today, we are undergoing a significant change in our communications strategy. We are no longer airing ‘live TV’ programming. Whether and when we return to ‘live’ programming is a subject of ongoing analysis.”
In his announcement, LaPierre pointed directly to another issue that has haunted the NRA over the past few months: the organization’s relationship with Ackerman McQueen, an advertising firm that operates NRATV.
The NRA and Ackerman McQueen have been partners since the 1980s, but that relationship began fraying last year after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her office would be investigating the NRA’s tax-exempt status. The NRA, as a result of James’s announcement, moved to audit contractors it worked with — an audit that Ackerman McQueen refused to comply with, despite the fact that the NRA paid Ackerman McQueen some $40 million per year.
As a result of Ackerman McQueen’s refusal, the NRA announced that the relationship between the two is over — with new productions at NRATV a casualty of the split. “What necessitated the change now is our conclusion that our longtime advertising firm and website vendor failed to deliver upon many contractual obligations it made to [the NRA],” LaPierre wrote on Wednesday, describing the NRA’s break with the ad company.
From its racism to its misogyny to its homophobia to its xenophobia, NRATV is dead because sunlight is the best disinfectant. It took years, but the @NRA is weaker than it's ever been, and the gun safety movement is stronger than its ever been. https://t.co/LChcW8htai
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) June 26, 2019
The effective closure of NRATV is the latest in a long series of blows to the NRA over the past two years.
In addition to the break with Ackerman McQueen, former NRA President Oliver North stepped down in April following his attempted ouster of LaPierre. North alleged that LaPierre engaged in a raft of financial improprieties, including spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on clothing and travel, among other expenses — information North supplied directly to Ackerman McQueen.
The questions about LaPierre’s spending habits come amidst public pressure on numerous companies that supported the NRA, or offered discounts to NRA members — some of which ended their relationships with the NRA following questions from outlets like ThinkProgress. The financial situation at the NRA has grown so dire that the company revealed it no longer offers free coffee for employees. As The Trace reported, NRA membership revenue also dropped nearly a quarter between 2017 and 2018.
The unprecedented turmoil also comes amidst continued questions about whether or not the NRA acted as a funnel for Russian financing for the Trump campaign, a relationship first highlighted by ThinkProgress. Thanks to close relations between NRA higher-ups and convicted Russian agent Maria Butina — as well as a controversial trip to Moscow in late 2015, where NRA representatives met with sanctioned Russian officials — the questions have continued well into 2019. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is planning to issue a formal report on the NRA’s relationship with Russia, and its role as part of broader Russian interference operations in 2016.
As it is, NRATV’s most prominent personalities, including Loesch, haven’t yet said anything about this week’s announcement. (As the Times reported, Loesch’s decision to “put Ku Klux Klan hoods on talking trains from the popular children’s program ‘Thomas & Friends’ drew outrage from some within the organization.”) Others who made their name at NRATV, like Dan Bongino and Chuck Holton, have also been silent. The individual websites for each NRATV series now redirect specifically to LaPierre’s statement.
But some of the NRATV personalities seem to be taking the news in stride. Cam Edwards, who hosts the daily “Cam and Company” show, described his work with NRATV as a “privilege and pleasure.”
For the last 15 years @CamEdwards @CamAndCompany was the go-to place for the best Second Amendment news. Hope NRA will find a way to bring back this great source of news for gun owners. https://t.co/V0oNgXGWgR
— VSSA (@VSSA) June 26, 2019
The Virginia Shooting Sports Association tweeted that it hoped the NRA “will find a way to bring back” his show.