CNN's Coates Rants Against NRA While Covering NY Lawsuit

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

Filling in as host of CNN Tonight on Thursday, CNN legal analyst Laura Coates picked up on the New York lawsuit targeting the NRA to do a commentary in which she blamed the pro-gun group for mass shootings and mocked it for being defined as a "charity."

She also hinted at racism by the right-leaning group as she complained about the NRA's response after black motorist and gun permit holder Philando Castile was kiled by a Minnesota police officer in a botched traffic stop in 2016, as she understated how much attention the NRA gave to the tragic event. 

Coates began her commentary bolstering the lawsuit by questioning whether the NRA should be called a charity:

LAURA COATES: Many of you were probably shocked today to learn that the National Rifle Association is considered a chartable organization. A charity is defined as an organization that's set up to provide help and raise money for those in need. The NRA as a charity -- I'm sure whatever you think of the NRA, that phrase isn't it. And New York's attorney general, Letitia James, certainly isn't buying it.

After listing some of the accusations that New York Democratic Attorney General Letitia James has made against the group, Coates listed a number of prominent mass shootings that have occurred in public places and suggested culpability by the NRA:

The NRA didn't pull the trigger, of course, but whenever families of victims have asked for common sense gun control laws to prevent the list I read from growing, the NRA gives no quarter. Attorney General Letitia James names four defendants, but what she didn't name -- or perhaps couldn't name -- are the victims of gun violence who have begged you, NRA, for your help, your advocacy, your power, and your enormous influence to control -- if not end -- gun violence in this country,

Not mentioned was that nearly all the mass shootings she listed took place in gun-free zones where increased gun rights as advocated by the NRA might have deterred gunmen or helped victims defend themselves and lessen the carnage.

Nearing the end of her commentary, she complained about the pro-gun group's response to the Castile killing, which took place on July 6, 2016, and incorrectly claimed that it took a year for the NRA to respond to the tragedy:

COATES: Lavish vacations while coffins were lowered into the ground. But, in practice, NRA, your mission really is quite specific. It's only that Second Amendment rights are protected. Well, what about Philando Castile? You remember him, NRA, right? He's the man in a car who told a Minnesota police officer that he was a lawfully carrying owner before he was gunned down in front of a child.

NRA, I don't recall you saying anything at all to advocate for him or ensure his rights were -- what did you say your mission state[ment] -- uh, yes, ensure that his rights not only be respected but enforced. You called his death a "terrible tragedy," but not until a year later, and only after the officer who shot and killed Mr. Castile was found not guilty of manslaughter.

But, in fact, the NRA released a statement the day after the killing on both Facebook and Twitter calling for Castile's death to be "fully investigated," and indicated that the group would hold off on commentary until more facts of the case were known.

As it happened -- as often occurs in such criminal cases -- some of the most critical evidence was not released to the public until after the trial ended on June 16, 2017. The dashcam video showing what led up to the shooting was released on June 20, which helped clarify why the jury chose to acquit Officer Jeronimo Yanez.

Prominent NRA members like then-spokesperson Dana Loesch discussed the issue both in the immediate aftermath of the shooting (with restraint) and after the verdict when more of the evidence was made public, both on her personal Twitter account and on her radio show, The Dana Show.

She tweeted out a piece by National Review's David French criticizing the officer's acquittal in an analysis which cited Castile calmly informing Yanez of his gun in a non-threatening manner as she suggested agreement with French's point of view. French gave further analysis after the dashcam was released.

Loesch also tweeted another National Review article, by Robert Verbruggen, which she called a "dissenting" view, taking the opposite position that Officer Yanez's acquittal was the right decision in part because Castile had failed to follow the officer's instructions not to reach into his pocket.

The issue was also discussed on her radio show on June 23 (with fill-in host Nate Shelman), with callers being equally divided on the issue, and on June 28 (after Loesch returned from vacation.)

Additionally, then-NRATV host Colion Noir spoke out on the issue both in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and after the verdict.

And that doesn't even cover other average African Americans like Josephine Byrd, Otis McDonald, Mary Shepard, and Shaneen Allen who have been assisted by the NRA in protecting their gun rights, mostly under circumstances of trying to prevent gun owners from being prosecuted by the state over issues that should not have been against the law.

So, in fact, not only does the NRA have a substantial recent history of assisting black Americans, but there was significant attention given to the Castile case by prominent NRA members in spite of liberals claiming that the NRA ignores the rights of African Americans.

This episode of CNN tonight was sponsored by Roman and Always Discreet. Their contact information is linked.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Thursday, August 6, CNN Tonight:

11:37 p.m. Eastern

LAURA COATES: Many of you were probably shocked today to learn that the National Rifle Association is considered a chartable organization. A charity is defined as an organization that's set up to provide help and raise money for those in need. The NRA as a charity -- I'm sure whatever you think of the NRA, that phrase isn't it. And New York's attorney general, Letitia James, certainly isn't buying it.

She's filed a lawsuit against the NRA seeking to dissolve it entirely for illegally profiting from a nonprofit organization; false reporting of annual fund of the IRS and New York's Charities Bureau; improperly documenting expenses; improper wage and income tax reporting among other offenses -- in all, entirely antithetical to its stated mission.

[ATTORNEY GENERAL LETITIA JAMES (D-NY)]

(…)

You say the NRA's mission emphasizes the difference it makes in the lives of the people it serves by ensuring that their rights are not only respected but also enforced. Well, I got to give it to you, NRA. You certainly do make a difference in people's lives -- the lives of people in Las Vegas, in Orlando, at Virginia Tech, Sutherland Springs, El Paso, Parkland, Santa Fe, Dayton, Virginia Beach, Thousand Oaks, Aurora, at the Tree of Life Synagogue, at Sandy Hook Elementary.

The NRA didn't pull the trigger, of course, but whenever families of victims have asked for common sense gun control laws to prevent the list I read from growing, the NRA gives no quarter. Attorney General Letitia James names four defendants, but what she didn't name -- or perhaps couldn't name -- are the victims of gun violence who have begged you, NRA, for your help, your advocacy, your power, and your enormous influence to control -- if not end -- gun violence in this country,

A charity is supposed to help people in need. These people and countless others were in need. A nonprofit isn't intended to profit at all, let alone profit from misery. But if these allegations are true, the money your charitable organization was supposed to raise to help people in need actually padded already full pockets for needless pending.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LETITIA JAMES (D-NY): They used millions upon millions of dollars from the NRA for personal use, including for lavish trips for themselves and their families, private jets, expensive meals, and other private travel.

COATES: Lavish vacations while coffins were lowered into the ground. But, in practice, NRA, your mission really is quite specific. It's only that Second Amendment rights are protected. Well, what about Philando Castile? You remember him, NRA, right? He's the man in a car who told a Minnesota police officer that he was a lawfully carrying owner before he was gunned down in front of a child.

NRA, I don't recall you saying anything at all to advocate for him or ensure his rights were -- what did you say your mission state[ment] -- uh, yes, ensure that his rights not only be respected but enforced. You called his death a "terrible tragedy," but not until a year later, and only after the officer who shot and killed Mr. Castile was found not guilty of manslaughter.

It was difficult to reconcile your mission statement with reality before these allegations, Today, these allegations, if proven, might make that impossible. "Might" make that impossible -- well, I guess now I'm the one being charitable.

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