He might run the most powerful gun lobbying group in America, but when National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre went elephant hunting in Africa, he missed three point-blank shots at an enormous pachyderm, which had already been shot and immobilized.
This week on Fever Dreams, hosts Will Sommer and Kelly Weill are joined by NPR correspondent Tim Mak, who discusses his bombshell new book MISFIRE: Inside the Downfall of the NRA. “Privately, people who have known him for decades, say he is anxious. He is cowardly, he's kind of anxiety ridden, weak-willed, and really afraid of conflict on a personal basis,” Mak says. “And that explains a lot of the reasons why the National Rifle Association finds itself in so much trouble now.”
Fever Dreams host Asawin Suebsaeng also stops by from paternity leave to ask Mak about the book’s wild reporting process, including receiving a trove of NRA documents in a covert handoff. “I ended up renting a moped and driving for what seemed like hours and meeting a source in a parking lot,” Mak recalls.
The NRA, which is in a life-or-death legal battle with New York State, isn’t the only one in legal jeopardy this week. Elsewhere on the episode, Sommer and Weill discuss the ongoing feud between Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and QAnon-hyping lawyer Lin Wood. Wood, who has previously accused the far-right Greene of being a “communist,” now accuses her of stiffing his law firm of $5,000 when he worked for her campaign last year.
“I can tell you, Lin Wood is not in a position to be writing off any bills,” Sommer says of Wood’s financial situation. “He was, or is being sued by a construction company involved in his plantation.”
Meanwhile, in Virginia, another dramatic civil case is battering the far right. The organizers of Unite the Right, the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally, are in court this month fighting a lawsuit that seeks to hold them responsible for the rally’s violence. Some of the defendants are representing themselves. It’s not going well.
“This has led to some pretty, I would say, legally inadvisable tactics,” Weill says, “including [defendant Christopher] Cantwell dropping the n-word completely unprompted in his opening statements. Of course, if you are one of these defendants, you’re trying to paint a more reasonable portrait of yourself. They’re basically trying to argue that they were not culpable for the day’s violence, but some of these outbursts aren’t really making them seem like the most reasonable people.”
But other fringe figures were full of hope early this week when they gathered in Dallas for what they hoped would be the resurrection of John F. Kennedy Jr. Some QAnon fans, particularly those on the messaging platform Telegram, falsely believe that the decades-dead JFK Jr. is actually alive and is working with Donald Trump to combat Democrats.
“A couple of these telegram accounts have cooked up the idea that JFK Jr. and the original JFK and Jackie Onassis Kennedy and the whole gang would be unveiling themselves either on Monday, Nov. 1 or Tuesday, Nov. 2,” Sommer says “So a lot of them gathered, they got in this hotel and they were looking forward to the big return.”
As of Tuesday evening, the long-dead members of the political dynasty remained dead and the expectant crowd had called it a night.