The National Rifle Association annual meeting in Nashville drew nasty coverage from Anita Wadhwani, who reports for the Tennessean and for USA Today. (Both are Gannett properties.) On Saturday, the local paper reported “At NRA, little love for media turnout.” The NRA’s not used to fair and balanced coverage.
Wadwhani dramatically underscored their hostility on Monday with a story headlined “Big conventions, like NRA, can draw sex trafficking.” Commenters quickly jumped on the argument that the Tennessean wasn’t using that crooks-from-outside-town tactic for the home games of the Tennessee Titans or the Country Music Association Awards. The reporter began:
With the biggest convention ever to hit Nashville — more than 70,000 members of the National Rifle Association are here this weekend for their annual meeting — law enforcement officials have prepared for what some see as the scourge of such large, male-dominated gatherings.
"Whenever you have that sort of traffic through your state, the opportunities for crime go up. People who travel sometimes don't make great choices," said Margie Quin, assistant special agent in charge of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Sex trafficking — defined by a commercial sex act that is induced by "force, fraud or coercion" or when a victim is under the age of 18 — is a year-round crisis in Tennessee, according to Quin, who oversees a team of agents that monitors websites and aids local law enforcement.
"Understand with trade shows and sporting events and conventions, people are eating. They're celebrating. They're drinking. They're away from home. And if they're going to make bad decisions, it's going to be away from home.
"All of that is a recipe for increased criminal activity."
Wadhwani also talked up sex-trafficking probes around the last Republican convention, no tilt there:
At the Republican National Convention in Tampa in 2012, anti-trafficking advocates grew alarmed at posts on Craigslist and Backpage — a site notorious for prostitution solicitations — that specifically advertised sexual liaisons to conventioneers.
Advocates in Florida ultimately decided to take pre-emptive action, distributing more than 50,000 bars of soap stamped with the number to the National Trafficking Hotline to area motels along with pictures of missing girls to distribute during the convention.
Did those nonpartisan “advocates” also try that at the Democratic convention in Charlotte? The reporter apparently didn’t feel the need to investigate.
On Saturday, the paper noted the anti-media scorn from the podium:
NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox set the tone of the forum.
"We're going to start off and — everybody be nice — wave to the back," he said. "Those are our friends in the media back there. They're all back there. Don't give them the one-finger salute, give them the full wave. Those of you in the back have the safest assignment in America today. Not just because of the brave men and women in uniform, but because of the rank-and-file NRA members who are carrying firearms right now.
"I hope you'll all keep that in mind when you are writing your stories about today's event because we are counting on you to be completely fair and honest."
Groans and some laughter came from the audience at the Music City Center.
Our friend Cam Edwards, host of “Cam & Company” on Sirius satellite radio and NRANews.com, sent along this link from the same newspaper that shows the NRA meeting hasn't been a event sullied by criminal behavior:
Smooth weekend for security
The NRA paid more than $200,000 to hire off-duty Metro officers to work security during the three-day convention.
Capt. Randy Hickerson, one of the officers paid by the NRA, said Sunday that the conference had been fairly uneventful. No major crimes or incidents were reported to police.
"Everything's gone well," he said. "There have been no significant issues at all."
In fact, Hickerson said, the crowd of about 70,000 had been very friendly to police, often walking up to thank the officers or shake their hands."