Legal Battles

Schadenfreude Fans: Lawsuit Between the NRA and the People Behind Its Dallas-Based TV Network Is for You

Dana Loesch speaks at the NRA's 2018 annual meeting in Dallas.
Dana Loesch speaks at the NRA's 2018 annual meeting in Dallas. Justin Sullivan / Staff
The fallout from the National Rifle Association's decision to cut ties with Ackerman McQueen, the ad firm behind its now-dead and formerly Dallas-based NRATV streaming service, continues, and it's spectacular. In a federal court filing first reported on by The Daily Beast, the gun rights organization fumes that the product it got from the ad agency in exchange for its hard-earned millions was too racist, even for the tastes of those who would pay for an NRA-branded TV package. The ad agency, for its part, says that the organization was getting exactly what it wanted.

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Dana Loesch speaks at the NRA's 2018 annual meeting in Dallas.
Justin Sullivan / Staff
"As AMc’s bills grew ever larger, NRATV’s messaging strayed from the Second Amendment to themes which some NRA leaders found distasteful and racist," the NRA says in its suit. "One particularly damaging segment featured children’s cartoon characters adorned in Ku Klux Klan hoods. Unfortunately, attempts by the NRA to 'rein in' AMc and its messaging were met with responses from AMc that ranged from evasive to hostile."  (The Klan thing actually happened. NRATV host Dana Loesch was trying to make a statement about Thomas and Friends trying to be more ethnically and gender inclusive and how she didn't like it.)

Ackerman McQueen repeatedly refused to provide viewership data to NRA officials, according to the suit, and made inflated sponsorship and viewership claims in meetings with the gun rights group as well, according to the suit. The ad firm frequently double-billed the NRA, according to the suit, and continues unauthorized use of the "NRA's intellectual property rights."

In response to the suit, Ackerman McQueen lays the blame — or credit, depending on your perspective — for NRATV's content at the feet of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who the ad agency says is now "grovel(ing) at the feet of the media (he) used to decry."

“LaPierre controlled every aspect of NRATV for which he recruited talent, approved every budget, audited every metric and required ultimate confidentiality. Ackerman McQueen routinely offered and toward the end of the relationship demanded that an outside firm audit NRATV performance but LaPierre refused. Unlike the NRA, AMc welcomes full transparency," Ackerman McQueen said in a statement to The Daily Beast. 

Whatever the merits of the NRA's lawsuit, the feelings the organization purports to have had about NRATV are striking. At the NRA's annual meeting in 2018 at Dallas' Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, the streaming service's shows and personalities were among the stars of the show. The network covered the festivities live, and Loesch was given a prime speaking spot during the event's President Donald Trump-starring leadership forum.

As the crowds at the forum waited between speakers and entertainment, they were bombarded by segments from network personalities, including Loesch's infamous "Violence of Lies" ad and another video showing conservative commentator Dan Bongino putting a batch of lemons meant to symbolize CNN's Don Lemon into a blender to "make Lemon-aide." Every time one of the videos concluded, the crowd roared. It wasn't because they were offended.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young