Oliver North Named New President Of National Rifle Association
A blast from the past as Oliver North, who was once at the center of a major Washington scandal, is named President of the National Rifle Association.
A blast from the past this afternoon as the National Rifle Association announced at the conclusion of its annual convention that Oliver North, the retired Marine Lt. Colonel who was at the center of the Iran-Contra Affair, has been named the new President of the organization:
Retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, a central figure in the Iran-contra affair in the 1980s, has been named president of the National Rifle Association.
The NRA’s board of directors chose North to be the organization’s president Monday morning after NRA President Pete Brownell decided not to seek a second term.
“This is the most exciting news for our members since Charlton Heston became president of our Association,” said NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre. “Oliver North is a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator and skilled leader. In these times, I can think of no one better suited to serve as our president.”
North will assume the presidency in the coming weeks and will retire from Fox News, where he is a commentator.
“I appreciate the board initiating a process that affords me a few weeks to set my affairs in order, and I am eager to hit the ground running as the new NRA President,” North said in a statement.
He has long been active in the NRA, and is a member of its board. He attended a prayer breakfast at the NRA’s annual convention in Dallas on Saturday.
“I want my grandkids to say that Granddad was a person who taught me how to fight the good fight, how to finish the race, how to keep the faith,” North said, using biblical imagery. “You see, that’s the most important lesson of all: We’re in a fight. We’re in a brutal battle to preserve the liberties that the good Lord presents us.”
North, of course, came to prominence in the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal, when it was revealed that he was at the center of a plan hatched along with National Security Adviser Admiral John Poindexter to circumvent the Congressional ban on providing funding to the Contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. That scheme, of course, involved selling arms to Iran in exchange for getting hostages being held in Lebanon at the time released and then using the proceeds of those sales to purchase and deliver military equipment and other material to the Contra fighters at their bases in the area surrounding Nicaragua.
During the hearings on the scandal that became a huge media circus in the summer of 1987, North became something of a media superstar on the right. Eventually, North was charged with 16 separate felony counts related to his role in the scandal, and convicted on three of those counts and sentenced to three years in prison, all of which were suspended, $150,000 in fines and 1,200 hours of community service. One year later, though, those convictions were overturned on appeal in a case where North’s attorneys were assisted by the ACLU. The basis for the decision to overturn the convictions was the finding that several of the jurors that had convicted may have been improperly influenced by the coverage of his Congressional testimony, for which he had been granted immunity. (Source)
Several years later, North entered politics and became the Republican nominee to take on Virginia Senator Chuck Robb in 1994, North lost that race in no small part due to the fact that his candidacy deeply divided the Virginia Republican Party and led to a third-party challenge from Marshall Coleman, a Republican who had been the first GOP candidate elected Attorney General of the state since the Reconstruction Era. In the past decade or so, North has been a frequent commentator on Fox News Channel and also hosted a weekend show on the network for roughly seven years. He has also been a member of the Board of the National Rifle Association for the past several years.
It’s worth noting that the position of President of the NRA doesn’t seem to be the center of the power in the organization. That position continues to belong to NRA Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre, who has held that position since 1991. LaPierre also holds the position of Executive Vice-President. LaPierre has also been one of the primary public faces for the NRA for much of that time period, although one suspects that North, who is now 74 years old, may end up taking on at least part of that role going forward given his experience on cable news and his national prominence at least among those of us who are old enough to remember his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. In any case, after largely being confined to conservative media for the past twenty years or so, I’m guessing we’ll be seeing Ollie North in the news again.