Since accepting the NRA’s “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award” at CPAC yesterday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has retweeted messages about Olympics curling from Mr. T and a cleverly-worded obituary of a Blues Brothers fan.
But still nothing addressing questions raised about the appropriateness of actually accepting the rifle-shaped award.
“Just when you thought @NRA could not be more out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Americans,” tweeted California congressman Ted Lieu last night, “it turns out the NRA randomly supports repealing net neutrality. What’s next, is the NRA going to support repealing seat belts?
“Also, was this a permissible gift to Ajit Pai?”
In making the presentation – which, unlike previous years, did not actually include handing over the weapon – NRA official Carolyn Meadows said that the Kentucky long rifle would remain at the organization’s Virginia museum. The award, she said, recognizes those who have “stood up under pressure with grace and dignity and principled discipline.”
Past recipients of the award include Phyllis Schlafly, Mike Pence and Sheriff David Clarke.
Pai has said that he received death threats after repealing net neutrality rules put in place by President Barack Obama.
Meadows said at the CPAC presentation Friday that the rifle will remain at the museum until Pai can receive it, but that particular work-around isn’t satisfying some critics. Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics who resigned in protest of Donald Trump, tweeted, “I’m sure this gift is worth more than $200, so where is the FCC’s written analysis? You know, the one the regulation requires FCC to issue.”
The NRA’s streaming channel, NRAtv, has come under increasing protest since the Parkland, Florida school shooting, with critics and petitions calling for Amazon, Apple, Google and Roku to discontinue carrying the channel.
With its considerable financial clout and ability to pay for the “fast lanes” allowable under the net neutrality repeal, the NRA and its channel could conceivably benefit from Pai’s decision. Recent reports suggest the NRA devotes extensive resources — $35.5 million in recent years — to “membership support” programs like NRAtv. The channel can potentially reach millions of homes via distribution on digital platforms including Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV, as well as online.
Hollywood activists including Alyssa Milano, Warren Leight, Amy Hargreaves, Ally Walker, Evan Handler, Tara Strong and Misha Collins are among those speaking out against the channel, while liberal-leaning politicos and pundits are taking Pai to task for accepting the NRA award.
Former Vermont governor Howard Dean tweeted, “Tells you a lot about Ajit Pai that he would accept this.”