Cuccinelli fundraiser co-host Tony Makris faced criticism for elephant hunt

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported the name of the club where the Cuccinelli fundraiser will take place. It has been corrected.

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II (R) is scheduled to hold an Alexandria fundraiser next week co-hosted by an NRA consultant whose hunting show was canceled last month after he killed an elephant on safari and then compared the hunt’s critics to Hitler.

Cuccinelli’s campaign characterized the NRA consultant’s use of a Hitler comparison as unfortunate but said he would attend the event.

Tony Makris, who is listed as a co-host of the fundraiser for Cuccinelli Monday night at CXIII Rex in Old Town, came under withering fire in September after his appearance on an NRA-sponsored hunting show called “Under Wild Skies” on NBC’s Sports Network.

The episode showed Makris killing an African elephant bull in Botswana’s Okavango Delta in September 2012 and celebrating afterward with champagne. Animal-rights groups and others reacted with outrage. Online petitions received calling on NBC to kill the show received more than 200, 000 signatures.

Makris, defending his actions on an NRA talk show, dismissed his critics as a “lunatic fringe.”

“They twisted every little thing and made something [out of what] man has been doing for 10,000 years -- hunting pachyderms,”Makris told the host of “Cam & Company.” He said his critics’ argument that it is permissible to hunt deer or rabbits but that it’s not okay to hunt an elephant represented a “very unique form of animal racism.”

“They said, ‘But [elephants are] so big and special and they’re smarter.’ And I said, ‘You know, Hitler would have said the same thing,’” Makris said.

NBC Sports Network, in a statement reported by several media outlets at the time, said it was canceling the show because of its association with Makris and his remarks appearing to link his critics with Hitler.

“Ken certainly wouldn’t have made such a comparison and finds it offensive,” Cuccinelli campaign spokesman Richard T. Cullen said in an e-mail. He also said Cuccinelli plans to go forward with the fundraiser.

Unlike past years, the subject of gun rights has not been a high-profile issue in the Virginia governor’s race this year,though there are significant difference between the two major-party candidates.

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee, has described himself as a supporter of the Second Amendment who also believes in the need for universal background checks. Cuccinelli, who is the state’s attorney general, has a long record as a proponent of gun-rights and has emphasized enforcing existing laws to keep guns away from people who are mentally ill and other disqualified people.

Makris, who co-founded the Old Town Armory in 1980s, has worked as a consultant to the National Rifle Association for more than a decade and helped actor Charlton Heston assume a leadership role in the organization. Makris is also founder and presidentof the Mercury Group, a subsidiary of the public relations firm Ackerman McQueen. Ack-Mac, as the firm is known, has collaborated with the NRA in its political campaigns in helping to create its image of strict devotion to its principles.

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