BREAKING NEWS : Fort Wayne Police searching for potential suspect in Third Street shooting leaving 2 dead Full Story

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 6:12 PM
Updated: Sep 15, 2018 6:26 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 710607

Reported Deaths: 13248
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion968581722
Lake51908949
Allen39337672
Hamilton34643406
St. Joseph34306543
Elkhart27477432
Vanderburgh22099394
Tippecanoe21927213
Porter17987301
Johnson17571374
Hendricks16854310
Clark12715190
Madison12367337
Vigo12240244
Monroe11510166
LaPorte11204204
Delaware10382184
Howard9698211
Kosciusko9165114
Hancock8014139
Bartholomew7913155
Warrick7702155
Floyd7568176
Wayne6917198
Grant6855171
Boone6568100
Morgan6414138
Dubois6091117
Marshall5801109
Dearborn571276
Cass5698104
Henry5588101
Noble543683
Jackson494172
Shelby481395
Lawrence4349118
Gibson429589
Harrison429171
Clinton420953
Montgomery418986
DeKalb413284
Whitley382239
Huntington379780
Miami373365
Knox367189
Steuben367157
Putnam353460
Jasper352546
Wabash348178
Adams338253
Ripley335469
Jefferson318080
White308854
Daviess289999
Wells286881
Decatur279592
Fayette277362
Greene271085
Posey269533
Scott261553
Clay255445
LaGrange255470
Randolph236080
Washington231631
Spencer228131
Jennings225448
Fountain209345
Sullivan208042
Starke206252
Owen192756
Fulton192140
Jay186429
Carroll186120
Perry181436
Orange178353
Rush170824
Vermillion166343
Franklin166035
Tipton161543
Parke144616
Blackford133931
Pike130734
Pulaski114345
Newton104234
Brown100740
Crawford97914
Benton97413
Martin83115
Warren80215
Switzerland7698
Union70110
Ohio56011
Unassigned0408

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1058395

Reported Deaths: 19033
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1229981360
Cuyahoga1080042072
Hamilton785031170
Montgomery50326998
Summit45710915
Lucas40568768
Butler37858572
Stark31586896
Lorain24333473
Warren23964293
Mahoning21029584
Lake20143365
Clermont19480229
Delaware18162130
Licking16185207
Fairfield15796197
Trumbull15666461
Medina14961259
Greene14765236
Clark13697293
Wood12828185
Portage12481196
Allen11374229
Richland11102198
Miami10568214
Muskingum8729127
Wayne8619209
Columbiana8589226
Pickaway8454121
Marion8409135
Tuscarawas8393240
Erie7644154
Hancock6746124
Ross6727146
Ashtabula6563166
Geauga6563146
Scioto6314101
Belmont5657159
Union560247
Lawrence5483102
Jefferson5372149
Huron5333114
Darke5285121
Sandusky5208120
Seneca5163120
Washington5095108
Athens509256
Auglaize477683
Mercer473785
Shelby458092
Knox4418108
Madison426559
Putnam423199
Ashland414488
Fulton411667
Defiance405596
Crawford3894102
Brown387755
Logan375176
Preble372498
Clinton364060
Ottawa359578
Highland348460
Williams330074
Champaign322357
Jackson309351
Guernsey308749
Perry290949
Fayette278448
Morrow277239
Hardin265964
Henry265066
Coshocton261058
Holmes255199
Van Wert239863
Pike234231
Gallia233346
Adams230252
Wyandot228354
Hocking210759
Carroll189747
Paulding169239
Meigs141738
Noble133037
Monroe129041
Morgan107723
Harrison105936
Vinton81614
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 42°
Angola
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 41°
Huntington
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 42°
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 42°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 41°
Patchy frost is expected Thursday night and near seasonable highs are on the way for Friday afternoon.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events