Joshua Powell was highly placed in the National Rifle Association for some time. He knew all the organization’s deepest, darkest secrets. He knew where the proverbial bodies were buried. He knew it all.
And yet, he kept working there. In fact, if he’d had his way, he’d still be working there. After all, he wasn’t let go until it was time for his contract to come up for renewal, at which point he wanted a hefty raise and the group balked.
Now, though? Oh, now the NRA is a problem.
Joshua Powell, 47, is the author of “Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America,” published in September. From 2016 to 2019 he served as senior strategist to the National Rifle Association and chief of staff to Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA.
In your book, you describe the corruption, greed and gross mismanagement you saw while at the NRA. Do you see yourself as a whistleblower?
Of course. And I hope it’s much more than that. I hope we can actually move this debate [on guns] a bit. Look, as I described in my book, I became caught up in the fight to save Wayne [LaPierre]. I mean, I poured the lemonade and stirred it. I was the guy kind of strategizing how we defend all this garbage. And looking at friends that are gun owners and put money into the NRA, knowing that they didn’t really have the truth, that wasn’t comfortable for me. And it took me some time to sort through that, personally.
You talked about Wayne LaPierre’s tendency to cater to that fringe and throw gasoline on the fire, famously saying after Sandy Hook, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is [with] a good guy with a gun.”
Right. Which is absurd. That is the quintessential example of pouring gas on the fire. And it was more than a tendency. It was a way of doing business. It’s really easy to raise money on fear. It’s a lot harder to raise money on solutions. They’re coming for your guns. Put a stamp on it. Send it out. It’ll come back with money in it. It was really easy. Like, I got a letter in the mail the other day: Gun Confiscation Coming. [Laughs.] Which is from the NRA raising money. Last year, it was Andrew Cuomo Is Shutting Down the NRA. You would think the next thing is going to be black helicopters and Joe Biden and Hillary [Clinton] coming to get your gun.
It was a real lost opportunity; it could have been a time to move on some of these background check bills, et cetera. So when I say, the NRA has blood on its hands, which people are outraged that I’m saying now, that’s what I’m referring to. Because what happens in the meantime, right — who’s lost? The human toll of that decision.
See, for me, the problem is that Powell was more than willing to keep working at the NRA. He was let go. He didn’t walk away because his sense of morality could no longer take what he was doing.
No, he wanted to stay and was shown the door.
If the NRA has blood on its hands, then Powell does too.
Take the post-Sandy Hook example brought up. That shooting was in 2012, four years before Powell went to work for the NRA. If he found the statement so objectionable–despite plenty of examples of just how a good guy with a gun stops bad guys with a gun–why did he take the job?
That’s my biggest problem with Powell. Everything about this smacks of sour grapes. He didn’t get his way, so now he’s storming off and is trying to burn the house behind him. He’s playing like the moral crusader, of course, but if any of these things went against his morals, why did he take the job? Why did he try to keep the job?
Instead, he’s continuing to push this idea that he’s a whistleblower when, in reality, he’s a disgruntled employee trying to belittle the name of an employer he feels slighted him.
Now, that doesn’t mean there’s not some validity to anything he says. No organization does everything perfectly and I’m sure there are things the NRA can legitimately do better.
The problem is that the media is eating up Powell’s crap with a spoon because it feeds into their preferred narrative of “NRA Bad.” Powell knows this and is playing it up. He knew that he could bring up the state of New York trying to shut down the NRA, spin it as a conspiracy theory, and get zero pushback over it.
So, he played it up.
Powell is nothing but a grifter who found a new crowd to grift. If this was someone who’d been fired from Brady under similar circumstances and was now spreading all the dirt, they’d be eviscerating him and we all know it. As it is, though, they’re lapping up everything he says as uncritically as it comes.
American journalism at its finest these days, apparently.