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NRATV Strays Seemingly Far Afield From Gun Ownership


Members of the National Rifle Association didn't have to go to Dallas to keep up with the group's annual convention over the weekend. They could get the information they needed by going online and watching NRATV, which provides its stream for free. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, NRATV programming ranges far beyond guns - a quick heads-up that his report includes some sound of gunfire.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: NRATV started in 2014 with a focus on guns. I mean, of course it would. For example, whenever there's a mass shooting, NRATV pushes back against critics of easy gun ownership. Here's Grant Stinchfield.


GRANT STINCHFIELD: At every step of the way, gun laws were instituted. In some cases, they were used. And they didn't work.

FOLKENFLIK: Entertainment programming includes a reality show sponsored by the gun manufacturing consortium SIG Sauer.


KIMBERLY CORBAN: Just over a week ago, I walked into the SIG Academy for the first time. I was a confident gun owner.


CORBAN: But I'd never done any sort of serious training. And let's just say it showed.

FOLKENFLIK: "Empower The People" features a rape victim named Kimberly Corban.


CORBAN: Drop your gun.

FOLKENFLIK: In this, Corban heads inside a staged site.


CORBAN: Anybody else inside?


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: All right, go ahead. Holster. What did you see here?

CORBAN: A dude with a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Right. You killed Jethro for drinking a beer.

FOLKENFLIK: The programming is consistent and all in the same direction. Shannon Watts is founder of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action. Watts has campaigned for streaming services, including Apple, Amazon, Google and Roku, to drop NRATV without success.

SHANNON WATTS: NRATV is the media arm of the gun lobby. It's trying to pit Americans against one another to ultimately further the gun lobby's agenda of guns anywhere for anyone, no questions asked.

FOLKENFLIK: NRA officials did not return several calls or emails seeking comment. A frequent NRA guest and substitute host also did not materialize for a promised interview. NRATV is a gun enthusiast's dream come true.

NICOLE HEMMER: It started off as a single-issue media outlet promoting gun rights messaging to the millions of NRA members across the country.

FOLKENFLIK: Nicole Hemmer is a professor at the University of Virginia's Miller Center who has written widely on the history of conservative media. She says NRATV is evolving.

HEMMER: It has taken a turn to become a pretty pugilistic or militaristic partisan outlet in the sense that it's anti-immigrant, pro-policing, anti-Muslim in some cases, anti-black in other cases.

FOLKENFLIK: So programming that's not explicitly about guns at all, such as this from Grant Stinchfield on President Trump's shadowy enemies.


STINCHFIELD: Our government is no longer ours. It's theirs. And while our president is trying to take it back in the name of the people, he faces the real resistance, the deep state.

FOLKENFLIK: Nicole Hemmer says the NRA is seeking to unite conservatives who are not gun right absolutists with other Republicans in the Trump era.

HEMMER: Support for Trump has become a kind of litmus test for the base. Loyalty or support for Trump has become kind of a route to power, a route to access.

FOLKENFLIK: Part of what's built into NRATV is a constant attack on the media and popular culture, as in this viral ad from NRATV's Dana Loesch.


DANA LOESCH: They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.

FOLKENFLIK: Earlier this afternoon, the NRA named retired Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North as its new president. North is known for his role in the Reagan White House as a national security aide and in the Iran-Contra scandal. He became a conservative radio star and a recurring figure on Fox News - another blurring of the lines between the NRA and the conservative media. David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.