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NYT Reports: NRATV Undergoing “Internal Review” as NRA Board Members Express Concern about the Media Platform, and NRA Payments to Ackerman McQueen

March 12, 2019

A stunning expose by the New York Times’ Danny Hakim finds that the NRA’s flagship media platform, NRATV, is undergoing an “internal review” as NRA board members, including a top lobbyist, “expressed concern” about the NRA media platform amid controversial payments to the media firm that produces NRATV, Ackerman McQueen.

Hakim reports:

“Now, growing unease over [NRATV’s] inflammatory rhetoric, and whether it has strayed too far from the N.R.A.’s core gun-rights mission, has put its future in doubt. …

“In recent weeks, in a rare airing of internal debate at the N.R.A., two prominent board members expressed concerns about NRATV to The New York Times. Their statements followed a round of cutbacks that claimed one prominent host, Dan Bongino, and were released through the N.R.A. itself, amid what was described as an internal review of NRATV and its future.”

Two NRA board members, including one of the NRA’s most influential lobbyists, and another prominent critic and lifetime NRA member went on the record with Hakim to criticize NRATV:

“‘Since the founding of NRATV, some, including myself and other board members, have questioned the value of it,’ Marion Hammer, the group’s most formidable lobbyist and a key adviser to its chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, said in a statement. ‘Wayne has told me and others that NRATV is being constantly evaluated — to make sure it works in the best interest of the organization and provides an appropriate return on investment.’ …

“‘It is clear to me that NRATV is an experiment and Wayne is evaluating the future of the enterprise,’ Willes K. Lee, a board member who leads the N.R.A. Outreach Committee, said in a statement to The Times. …

“‘The N.R.A. shouldn’t be putting this out,’ said Jeff Knox, an N.R.A. member who runs the Firearms Coalition, a smaller advocacy organization. ‘It’s not gun rights; it’s red meat for the hard right.’”

Hakim also reports that NRA “board members have also expressed concern” about the NRA’s payments to the media firm that produces NRATV, Ackerman McQueen.

“As falling membership dues put the N.R.A. under further strain, board members have also expressed concern about the size of payments to the ad firm that produces NRATV, Ackerman McQueen. The firm and its affiliates pocketed $40 million from the N.R.A. in 2017; billings directly to Ackerman have increased nearly 50 percent since 2015. …

“Oliver L. North, the N.R.A. president, has a contract with Ackerman, though the N.R.A. would not disclose its size. As part of the relationship, Mr. North, a former Fox News pundit, hosts media programming and special events, like the show ‘American Heroes,’ which recently began airing on NRATV.

“The N.R.A., a nonprofit, has also directed $18 million since 2010 to a private company jointly owned by Ackerman and N.R.A. executives, according to records and interviews. …

“Since 2010, the N.R.A. has paid $18 million to a company that produces ‘Under Wild Skies,’ a hunting show on NRATV. Tyler Schropp, the N.R.A.’s advancement director, came to the organization in 2010 from Ackerman, and had a stake in the production company until at least 2017, but ‘no longer holds any interest,’ [NRA outside counsel William] Brewer said.

“Federal rules restrict transactions that confer economic benefits on key executives of tax-exempt organizations.

“Mr. Brewer described Mr. Schropp’s stake as ‘a minuscule interest’ that the N.R.A. found not to be objectionable. Payments related to ‘Under Wild Skies’ emerged only recently in N.R.A. tax filings. …”


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