INDIANAPOLIS—In a surprising move, Oliver North announced that he has been ousted as president of the National Rifle Association, going on the offensive to warn that the powerful gun rights group is in “clear crisis.”
In a letter read by the group’s vice president Saturday morning to kick off the second day of the group’s annual meeting, North said that he will not be renominated to serve as NRA president as infighting and controversy have taken hold at the gun rights group’s annual meeting.
“Please know I hoped to be with you today as NRA president endorsed for reelection. I’m now informed that that will not happen,” he wrote.
North, who has been in the job six months, went on to attack the NRA law firm that filed a lawsuit against its leading ad firm. “There is a clear crisis” at the NRA regarding financial allegations, he wrote.
The announcement comes as The Daily Beast exclusively reported on Saturday that longtime NRA lawyer, Steve Hart, has been suspended. The dual departures of long-time high profile NRA insiders with knowledge of the organization's legal troubles come just days after the gun-gun group took shots North in the days leading up to its much-watched national meeting keynoted by President Donald Trump—the first sign of a internal shake up.
In a sign that something was afoot, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s longtime CEO and leader, received a standing ovation at the beginning of the members meeting. He was seated next to Oliver North’s empty chair and placard.
North’s opening remarks were essentially a rebuke of his ouster, read by First Vice President Richard Childress to the thousands of members who had packed Lucas Oil Stadium, an NFL football arena in downtown Indianapolis for the popular event.
Childress said that he only learned that he would be reading the letter around 7 p.m. Friday night and asked the audience to bare with him.
“After resuming office as NRA president in September of 2018, I was confronted by NRA members and board members who expressed concern about the amount of money the NRA was paying to the Brewer law firm,” North wrote in his letter. “There is a clear crisis and it needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting our Second Amendment.”
In an updated version of a civil complaint filed April 24 in Virginia state court, the NRA made new allegations regarding North, a former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel perhaps best known for his role in the Iran-contra affair, and his relationship the company that runs NRATV.
The updated complaint alleges that not only did North not deliver on all of the material promised for NRATV but he allegedly garnered a salary from both the gun rights group and Ackerman McQueen, the advertising form that has worked with the advocacy group for three decades, at the same time.
On Thursday, LaPierre claimed in a letter published in the Wall Street Journal that North was trying to “oust him” in an alleged extortion attempt and would not comply with the threat.
“Delivered by a member of our Board on behalf of his employer, the exhortation was simple: resign or there will be destructive allegations made against me and the NRA,” LaPierre, who is also the group’s executive vice president, wrote in the letter.
In response, North wrote his own letter to the board on Thursday, defending his actions that were “for the good of the NRA.”
North, once a political commentator and Fox News host, also served as a staff member of the National Security Council during the Regan administration. He was later convicted on three felony accounts stemming from the affair involving an arms-for-hostages deal with Iran in which the proceeds were used to secretly arm a Contras rebel group in Nicaragua. The conviction was later overturned.
On May 7, 2018, the NRA announced that North would become the organization's next president after years of serving as a board member and appearing at the national conventions in 2007 and 2008.
“I've been on the NRA board for more than two decades. It was a great privilege to serve as your president this past year, an honor second to only serving our country as a U.S. Marine in combat,” he wrote in the Saturday letter.
On Saturday, New York Attorney General Letitia James also confirmed her office has launched an investigation into the NRA regarding the group's finances, a spokesperson confirmed to NPR.
“The Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation related to the National Rifle Association (NRA). As part of this investigation, the Attorney General has issued subpoenas,” the spokesperson said. According to NPR, the group received a document preservation notice in connection with the AG's investigation.
In response, an outside lawyer for the NRA told the news organization that the group is “ fully cooperat[ing] with any inquiry into its finances.”
“The NRA is prepared for this, and has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance,” William A. Brewer III, an outside lawyer for the NRA, told the news organization on Saturday.