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'Terrorist' Remark Puts Outdoorsman's Career in Jeopardy
"For so many years, Zumbo has been a voice for these people -- for hunting and for guns -- and they just turned on him in an instant," Wray said. "He apologized all over himself, and it didn't do any good."
Zumbo's fall highlights a fundamental concern of the NRA and many champions of military-style firearms, according to people who follow the organization closely. They do not want American gun owners to make a distinction between assault weapons and traditional hunting guns such as shotguns and rifles. If they did, a rift could emerge between hunters, who tend to have the most money for political contributions to gun rights causes, and assault-weapon owners, who tend to have lots of passion but less cash.
The NRA appeared to be saying as much in its statement Thursday, when it emphasized that the Zumbo affair shows there is "no chance" that a "divide and conquer propaganda strategy" could ever succeed.
"Jim Zumbo Outdoors" was not broadcast as scheduled last week on the Outdoor Channel and will not air next week, said Mike Hiles, a spokesman for the channel. He said sponsors have requested that they be removed from the program. The show "will be in hiatus for an undetermined period of time," he said.
Zumbo's long career at Outdoor Life, which is owned by Time Inc., also came to a sudden end in the past week. Zumbo was hunting editor of the magazine, which is the nation's second-largest outdoors publication. He wrote his first story for Outdoor Life in 1962.
The magazine's editor in chief, Todd W. Smith, said that Zumbo submitted his resignation after hearing of the large number of readers (about 6,000, at last count) who had sent e-mails demanding his dismissal. Smith dismissed as "conjecture" a question about whether Zumbo would have been fired had he not resigned.
"Jim is a good guy, and I feel bad about this unfortunate situation," Smith said. "We are living in very delicate times. For someone to call these firearms 'terrorist' rifles, that is a flash-point word. You are painting a bunch of enthusiasts with the word. They don't like being called terrorists."
When he wrote his now-notorious blog entry, Zumbo was on a coyote hunt in Wyoming sponsored by Remington, a detail he noted in the entry.
That mention -- as it bounced around in recent days among a number of assault-weapon Web sites -- triggered a call for a boycott of Remington products.
That prompted Remington to issue a news release, saying that it has "severed all sponsorship ties with Mr. Zumbo effective immediately."
Remington chief executive Tommy Millner issued a personal appeal to gun owners who might be thinking about boycotting the company's products: "Rest assured that Remington not only does not support [Zumbo's] view, we totally disagree," Millner said. "I have no explanation for his perspective. I proudly own AR's and support everyone's right to do so!"
Zumbo, in his public apology, said that when he wrote the blog entry that criticized assault rifles, he was at the end of a long day's hunt.
"I was tired and exhausted," he wrote, "and I should have gone to bed early."