The NRA slams the FBI, calls Democrats ‘saboteurs’, says reporters ‘love mass shootings’
Following an endorsement from Trump, NRA leaders Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch went on the attack at the Conservative Political Action Conference, ending their temporary silence on the Florida school massacre with a return to starkly bleak rhetoric.
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WASHINGTON—Emerging from their defensive crouch, officials from the National Rifle Association, America’s top gun-rights lobby group, went on the attack Thursday with a series of wild claims — accusing members of the media of being happy about mass shootings and the Democratic Party of being “infested” with America-hating “socialists” and “saboteurs” looking to seize control of the country.
NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch and executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, both known for inflammatory rhetoric, delivered consecutive speeches filled with conspiratorial and aggressive assertions at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington — just before a speech by Vice-President Mike Pence.
Loesch accused the reporters in the room and the companies they work for of secretly enjoying massacres like the mass shooting in which 17 people were killed at a Florida high school last week.
“I’ll say it really slowly so all the people on the platform in the back can hear me loud and clear: Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” she said, emphasizing each word. “You guys love it. Now, I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media in the back.”
Her remark was roundly condemned by members of the media.
“I’ve covered a lot of mass shootings, and no, journalists don’t love them. May God have mercy on your soul, you horrible person,” television host Soledad O’Brien wrote on Twitter.
The NRA had remained quiet in the days following the Florida massacre even as gun control advocates seized public attention.
Their temporary silence was “absolutely standard practice,” said Robert Spitzer, a professor and chair of political science at SUNY Cortland who has written five books on gun policy: the organization typically adopts a “duck-and-cover” strategy following a massacre, “waiting for the storm to pass,” he said.
They didn’t wait long this time.
LaPierre, like President Donald Trump did on Wednesday, argued that the solution to school shootings is more armed employees and other security measures in schools; he said “schools must the most hardened targets in this country.” But his speech was not limited to a defence of gun rights.
The NRA has morphed from a single-issue entity, focused on guns, into an open supporter of the Republican Party. As is his usual practice at CPAC, LaPierre launched a broadside at the Democratic Party, alleging that Democratic leaders are not progressives or left-wingers but “socialists” bent on destroying American values like “faith” and “patriotism.”
LaPierre painted a frightening picture of the state of American society, warning conservatives to be afraid of lurking dangers to their liberty. The goal of “elites,” he said, is not to protect children but “to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”
LaPierre offered little or no evidence for many of his claims. Much of his rhetoric about a hidden socialist menace — he warned that many college students are being assigned to read the Communist Manifesto — hearkened back to the Cold War.
But this was no old-fashioned CPAC. The conference, one of the country’s top conservative gatherings, was thoroughly suffused with Trump’s influence.
The day’s first panel was titled “An Affair to Remember: How the Far Left and the Mainstream Media Got in Bed Together.” Shortly after Pence, the conference was to hear from Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a member of France’s far-right National Front political dynasty. In between, a radio host taped a show featuring controversial former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, who railed against the Russia probe.
Le Pen complained about what she said was a growing influence of Muslim immigrants in France.
“I want America first for the American people, Britain first for the British people, and France first for the French people,” Le Pen said to cheers — referring both to a Trump slogan and the name of a British extreme-right party.
Trump’s impact was felt in both NRA speeches. Loesch and LaPierre departed from the organization’s typical effusive praise of law enforcement to denounce the FBI — not only for its failure to heed warnings about the Florida shooter but over the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
“Even the FBI is not free of its own corruption and its own unethical agents,” said LaPierre, complaining that nobody at the organization had stood up against its “rogue leadership.”
Trump offered praise for LaPierre and his NRA colleagues soon before the speech.
“What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Pence followed LaPierre with a well-received speech in which he listed Trump’s conservative accomplishments, from cutting regulations to withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. He declared that “2017 was the most consequential year in the history of the conservative movement.”
He also complained that there is “too much anger in America.”