Oliver North, a retired Marine officer who was a key figure in the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan presidency, will become the next head of the National Rifle Association, according to a statement released Monday.
“This is the most exciting news for our members since Charlton Heston became president of our association,” wrote NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre in the statement. “Oliver North is a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator and skilled leader."
Outgoing NRA President Pete Brownell, who decided not to seek re-election, said in the statement that North is the right leader for the organization in what he called "these extraordinary times."
“Discussing this with Wayne LaPierre, he suggested we reach out to a warrior amongst our board members, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, to succeed me," Brownell wrote in a letter to the NRA board quoted in the statement. "Wayne and I feel that in these extraordinary times, a leader with history as a communicator and resolute defender of the Second Amendment is precisely what the NRA needs."
North, 74, said in the statement he is "honored to have been selected by the NRA Board to soon serve as this great organization’s president.”
North came under the public spotlight in 1987 after his nationally televised testimony to Congress on his role in secretly selling arms to Iran and funneling the proceeds to Contras in Nicaragua, a guerrilla force fighting that country's left-wing Sandinista government in the 1980s.
He was found guilty for aiding and abetting the obstruction of Congress, accepting an illegal gift and shredding official documents. All charges were vacated in 1990 on the grounds that his congressional testimony, for which he was granted immunity, could have been used in such a way as to breach his right against self-incrimination.