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Cash-Strapped NRA Shuts Down Its Online Channel NRATV

NOEL KING, BYLINE: The National Rifle Association, the NRA, has an online TV channel. Now it is effectively shutting down. It won't produce any more original programming. NPR's David Folkenflik explains what's going on.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Last fall, the white-hot controversy involved not guns but a British tank engine named Thomas - he's an animated TV star for toddlers - as well as his new train friend from Kenya. NRA host Dana Loesch wasn't a fan.


DANA LOESCH: Anyway, they've decided that the next stop is Virtue Town.

FOLKENFLIK: On NRATV, Loesch depicted "Thomas & Friends" in the white hoods of the KKK to mock the very idea of diversity among toy trains.


LOESCH: I mean, how do you bring ethnic diversity to a show that literally has no ethnicities because they're trains?

FOLKENFLIK: The online channel took on an explicitly pro-Trump cast and strayed far afield from the group's roots in gun rights activism and gun safety, attacking President Obama. One host called for a march on the FBI. And then there was commentary like this from Chuck Holton, an Army ranger and conservative television journalist.


CHUCK HOLTON: If you think about it, they have so much in common - the liberals in America and ISIS.

STEVE HOBACK: The NRA's mission should be about advocacy of Second Amendment rights.

FOLKENFLIK: This voice belongs to Steve Hoback, a life-member and former staffer of the NRA. Hoback is now part of a group called Save the Second, pushing for reforms of the NRA.

HOBACK: To me, same-sex marriage and immigration and all these other ancillary issues are not Second Amendment issues for them to be debating.

FOLKENFLIK: NRATV was programmed by a major consultant group to the NRA called Ackerman McQueen. The two sides are now suing one another. The NRA declined NPR's request for comment, pointing to a statement from NRA's top executive, Wayne LaPierre. He said the organization was looking more closely at its spending and seeking to hew closely to its mission. His top deputy resigned yesterday, accused of trying to stir up a coup to oust LaPierre.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF QUICKLY, QUICKLY'S "WEAR ME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.