Oliver North out as NRA president after leadership dispute
INDIANAPOLIS — Oliver North announced Saturday he would not serve a second term as National Rifle Association president, making it clear he had been forced out by the gun lobby’s leadership after his failed attempt to remove the NRA’s longtime CEO in a burgeoning divide over the group’s finances and media operations.
“Please know I hoped to be with you today as NRA president endorsed for re-election. I’m now informed that will not happen,” North said in a statement that was read by Richard Childress, the NRA’s first vice president, to members at the group’s annual convention.
North, whose one-year term ends Monday, did not show up for the meeting, and his spot on the stage was empty, his nameplate in its place. Wayne LaPierre, whom North had tried to push out, later received two standing ovations.
It was a stunning conclusion to a battle between two conservative and Second Amendment titans — North, the retired Marine lieutenant colonel who was at the center of the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, and LaPierre, who has been battle-tested in the decades since he took up the mantel of gun rights. He has fought back challenges over the decades. In this latest effort, he pushed back against North, telling members of the NRA’s board of directors North had threatened to release “damaging” information about him to them and saying it amounted to an “extortion” attempt.
Hundreds of the NRA’s estimated 5 million members packed into the convention center in Indianapolis where the group’s annual meetings were being held. Near the end of the two-hour meeting, some members challenged efforts to adjourn and pushed to question the board about controversies involving its financial management, the relationship with its longtime public relations firm and details of what North sought to raise about alleged misspending, sexual harassment and other mismanagement.
But those cries were drowned out as some board members urged such conversations not be held at such a large public forum, even if the media were eventually discharged from the room.
The internal dispute spilled out in public after the NRA in recent weeks filed a lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen, the Oklahoma-based public relations firm that has earned tens of millions of dollars in the decades since it began shaping the gun lobby’s fierce talking points. The NRA’s lawsuit accuses Ackerman McQueen of refusing to hand over financial records to account for its billings.
North has a $1 million contract with Ackerman McQueen, raising alarm bells among some in the NRA about conflicts of interest. He has a show called “American Heroes,” on NRATV, the online TV station created and operated by Ackerman McQueen. NRATV and Ackerman McQueen’s billings are at the center of the turmoil, with some members and board members questioning whether they were getting any value for the money devoted to that part of the operation. In 2017 alone, the NRA paid the firm $40 million.