STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

NRATV host slammed over KKK reference

NRATV host Dana Loesch stirred controversy by using an edited image of "Thomas & Friends" cartoon characters wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods on her show "Relentless."

Posted: Sep 15, 2018 5:01 PM
Updated: Sep 15, 2018 5:26 PM

NRA TV host Dana Loesch seems to thrive on dog whistle controversy. Case in point: in a recent segment of her internet show "Relentless," she castigated the British cartoon series "Thomas & Friends," featuring Thomas the Tank Engine, for seeking to bring "gender balance" and "ethnic diversity" to the show.

The special focus of her ire? A tank character named Nia from Kenya who was introduced as part of the program's effort to internationalize and diversify its characters. Horrible as that may seem to Loesch, she capped her critique by displaying a doctored picture of Thomas and two of his friends in KKK hoods riding on track seen to be burning in the background.

Loesch considers the program "creepy." But next to the image of children cartoon characters in Klan outfits -- well, readers and viewers can draw their own conclusions about what constitutes "creepy." But what does Loesch's grotesque distortion of a children's cartoon have to do with gun rights? Nothing, according to the laws of common sense. But in the era of President Donald Trump, everything.

This tale begins with the NRA's early and fulsome endorsement of Trump's presidential campaign -- even before he had officially captured the nomination. That political move was significant for two reasons: first, the gun rights group has normally not made political endorsements so early in an election cycle; second, the NRA was taking a political risk because of the unorthodox nature of Trump's campaign. But the NRA's gamble hit the jackpot. Trump won the nomination, and the presidency.

The NRA has taken its culture war cues from Trump, especially through NRA TV where, according to Time magazine, "its segments are anti-Black Lives Matter, pro-cop, anti-media and pro-Trump." Add to that list that it's against Hollywood liberals and so-called coastal liberal elites, all Trump targets. The point is that it's not just guns the NRA is defending, but its way of life, its identity. If these messaging themes are good enough for the President, then why not for the NRA? Absent a demonic figure in the White House like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, here is a new focus to gin up fear, anger, and gun sales.

Despite the fact that a decade earlier, Trump had supported gun measures like the assault weapons ban and longer gun waiting periods, his conversion to NRA dogma was thorough and unwavering. But more than that, Trump's core constituencies coincided closely with that of the NRA -- especially older white males from rural areas, who are also highly likely to be gun owners.

It was a natural fit. Multiple studies have found that fears of "racial and global status threat," as political scientist Diana Mutz puts it, and fear of change in an increasingly multiethnic nation were core forces driving much of the Trump vote. This does not mean that all or even most Trump voters were racists, but that race-based fear and anxiety was nevertheless an important animating force explaining Trump's victory. NRA core supporters share many of the same beliefs.

One need look no further than Trump's obsessive condemnation of NFL players, mostly African-Americans, who chose to kneel before the start of games to protest unjust police shootings of African-Americans, to understand Trump's dog whistle race baiting. When Nike recently featured Colin Kaepernick, who led the kneeling movement, in an advertisement, Trump used it as a convenient symbol to rally his base and divert attention from the parade of scandals and missteps that have characterized his administration.

Even if one questions whether there was racial animus embedded in Trump's verbal attacks on NFL players, Trump's shocking defense of neo-Nazi protestors who demonstrated in Charlottesville in 2017 as including "some very fine people" -- and which neo-Nazis were the "fine people," I wonder? -- has to lead us to realize that Trump has carved out a safe space for virulent racists.

Admittedly, there is nothing the NRA would like more than to cultivate gun ownership and use among segments of the population that have shown little or substantially less interest in guns, including women, African-Americans, Latinos, and the LGBT community. To date, however, efforts to increase gun ownership among these groups don't seem to be yielding many gains. Surely the angry, dark, and relentlessly apocalyptic messaging that is the steady rhetorical diet of the NRA is not disposed to broaden the NRA's appeal, which goes double for its recent Trumpish foray into the culture wars.

The NRA's reaction, or lack of reaction, to recent shootings involving police and African-Americans certainly hasn't helped it broaden its base. Consider the case of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African-American pulled over by police outside of St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2016. When the officer asked for the man's license and registration, Castile told the officer that he had a firearm (and was a licensed gun owner). In the car was Castile's girlfriend and young daughter. After yelling at the man to not pull out his gun, and after Castile replied that he was not, within seconds the officer fired 7 shots, killing Castile. (The officer was acquitted of manslaughter, but was removed from the force.)

For its part, the NRA has been quick to defend, in a highly public way both with words and legal assistance, civilians who were, in its view, properly exercising their gun rights -- even if authorities said otherwise. From Bernhard Goetz, the 1980s "subway vigilante" who shot four African-American youths he said were harassing him, to its fierce advocacy for expanded "stand your ground" laws that give special legal protections to people who kill others who feel threatened in public places, the NRA has been unstinting in extolling civilian gun use.

Yet in the Castile case, and despite the fact that the man wound up dead for simply exercising his so-called "gun rights," they were silent. In the culture wars debate the NRA wants to have, criticism of police, even when they mistakenly use deadly force against African-Americans, is a bridge too far -- even if invoking the KKK isn't.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 13260

Reported Deaths: 625
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds89324
Lauderdale67855
Madison65421
Scott58910
Neshoba51231
Forrest48034
Jones46713
DeSoto4616
Leake38410
Holmes36523
Rankin3496
Jackson29613
Copiah2784
Attala27014
Lincoln24320
Monroe24224
Leflore24025
Harrison2346
Newton2243
Lamar2194
Yazoo2152
Pearl River20327
Pike19611
Adams18615
Lowndes1607
Noxubee1586
Washington1535
Warren1506
Bolivar14010
Jasper1393
Oktibbeha13410
Smith13110
Covington1271
Chickasaw12612
Clarke12616
Kemper12510
Lafayette1233
Carroll11310
Wayne1090
Marion1088
Lee1045
Clay993
Winston981
Coahoma983
Lawrence901
Hancock8711
Simpson850
Itawamba857
Yalobusha824
Wilkinson829
Montgomery781
Sunflower773
Grenada752
Jefferson Davis712
Union715
Tippah7011
Marshall693
Panola622
Calhoun604
Tate591
Claiborne581
Humphreys537
Amite521
Walthall510
Tunica483
Perry462
Jefferson400
Prentiss383
Stone300
Choctaw292
Webster271
Pontotoc263
Franklin252
Tishomingo250
Quitman240
Tallahatchie241
George191
Alcorn151
Benton140
Greene71
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 14478

Reported Deaths: 551
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile1996109
Jefferson161488
Montgomery118630
Marshall6499
Tuscaloosa50512
Lee49832
Franklin4476
Shelby43319
Tallapoosa39662
Butler34411
Chambers33623
Madison2964
Baldwin2749
Elmore2637
Etowah23610
DeKalb2213
Coffee2001
Walker1981
Dallas1973
Sumter1916
Lowndes18610
Houston1644
Morgan1621
Autauga1593
Calhoun1413
Choctaw1414
Pike1360
Colbert1362
Marengo1336
Hale1293
Russell1280
Lauderdale1282
Randolph1257
Wilcox1187
Marion11310
Bullock1111
Barbour1101
Clarke1022
St. Clair1021
Pickens934
Talladega912
Greene894
Chilton871
Dale830
Cullman760
Limestone740
Jackson692
Covington651
Washington645
Winston620
Macon602
Bibb591
Crenshaw582
Henry562
Blount491
Escambia433
Lawrence420
Coosa331
Geneva330
Cherokee332
Perry310
Monroe282
Clay272
Conecuh251
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 74°
Columbus
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 71°
Oxford
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 70°
Starkville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather