The National Rifle Association cut ties with conservative pundit Dana Loesch in June, but that hasn’t stopped them from using her in a new membership campaign—apparently without giving her a heads up.
The NRA purchased eight Facebook ads last week featuring minute-long videos of Loesch, recorded during her tenure, promoting the organization and its policy battles against perceived foes in the Democratic Party and the press. Each ad links to a website that beckons new membership sign-ups.
“I was not aware that the ads were still running and am unsure why this is,” Loesch told The Daily Beast in an email.
The NRA said that it was taking steps to remove the ads in question.
“We engaged a vendor to remove all the ads, and regret some were still publicly available,” said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesperson for the group, in an emailed statement.
The ads appear to be part of a new social media advertising push. The NRA more than doubled its weekly Facebook ad spending last week with paid posts featuring Loesch, as well as a round of ads attacking Democratic presidential candidates and urging supporters to “stop gun-ban politicians.” But the group also faces immense internal fights, and just this week, longtime board member Richard Childress resigned from the group.
For years, Loesch hosted a show on the NRA TV streaming service. The NRA’s ex-ad firm Ackerman McQueen managed the show as part of its work for the gun group, and Loesch worked for the firm. For decades, there was no visible daylight between the ad firm and the gun group. That changed earlier this year, however, when government investigations of the NRA fueled tensions within the group. The NRA sued the firm, the firm sued back, and the two entities parted ways. They’re now enmeshed in a multi-million-dollar legal fight.
When they separated, Loesch’s formal relationship with the NRA ended. That’s why the group’s continued use of her image and videos is a bit of a surprise.
“Of course, they are being removed,” Arulanandam said. “This is part of our transition to an advertising and communications strategy different than the one authored by Ackerman McQueen – one that is more focused on our core mission of defending our Second Amendment freedom.”
An Ackerman McQueen rep, meanwhile, didn’t criticize the arrangement.
“It’s nice to see a former client continue to appreciate your work,” said Bill Powers, the ad firm’s spokesperson.
The videos in question showcase Loesch’s bomb-throwing persona. She spearheaded an aggressive public relations campaign that went after not just the group’s traditional adversaries, but also news organizations including The New York Times and progressive college campuses.
The NRA’s public-relations efforts also zeroed in on President Donald Trump’s critics. “We are witness to the most ruthless attack on a president, and the people who voted for him, and the free system that allowed it to happen in American history,” Loesch declares in one of the videos used last week to market NRA memberships.
Oliver North, the NRA’s ex-president, also worked with Ackerman McQueen. The ad firm contracted with him to make a documentary series, but the NRA has alleged in court that North didn’t deliver. Childress, the board member who just resigned, was close with North and read aloud a statement from him after he abruptly left the NRA’s tumultuous membership meeting in April.
Childress wrote in his resignation letter, which The Daily Beast obtained, that he was leaving to focus on his businesses. The letter also alluded to the NRA’s internal fight over whether or not to wade into the sorts of culture war battles that Loesch embodied at the NRA.
“My hope is that the NRA will move forward with a focus on its important mission of defending the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens as provided in the Second Amendment, promoting firearm and hunting safety, enhancing our shooting sports, and educating the general public about firearms,” Childress wrote.
In a statement, the NRA thanked Childress for his work at the association.
“We accept the resignation of Mr. Childress, with deep appreciation for his many years of service to the NRA,” said NRA President Carolyn Meadows. “We wish him all of the best in his future business endeavors. Naturally, we appreciate his desire to focus on those interests at this time. Of course, we are pleased to know that Mr. Childress will continue to support our organization and the constitutional freedoms in which it believes.”