A week after she was elected president of the National Rifle Association, after a bitter and public power struggle over the organization’s leadership, Carolyn Meadows apologized for saying one of the leading proponents for gun control in Congress only won her election because she’s a “minority female.”
In a statement to The Washington Post, Meadows apologized to Rep. Lucia “Lucy” McBath (D-Ga.) for her comments, which, she said, were “insensitive and inappropriate.”
Meadows drew sharp criticism after she told her hometown newspaper that McBath’s stance on gun reform was not the reason for her improbable electoral victory in 2018.
“That didn’t have anything to do with it,” Meadows said in an interview with the Marietta Daily Journal. “It had to do with being a minority female.”
Before she was elected to Congress, McBath, who is black, was known as one of the “Mothers of the Movement” for gun control, advocating stricter laws that she hoped would stop the sort of shootings that left her son dead in 2012.
On the campaign trail, McBath said her top priority in Washington would be pushing legislation to require background checks for all firearms purchases. And when she won, her victory was hailed as a milestone for gun reform.
On Monday, McBath responded to Meadows in a string of Twitter posts that began, “Hi NRA! It’s time we clear something up.”
“I won this race because — after my son was senselessly murdered in 2012 — I stood up to do something about it,” McBath wrote. “I knew it was time to fight back.”
“My work on gun violence, health care, and many other issues is just starting,” she said in another tweet, attaching a photograph of her and her son. “And yes — as a woman of color I am proud to be part of the most diverse class in American history. My experiences drive the work I am doing for my constituents. And nobody can take that away from me.”
McBath said Meadows’s comments were another reason gun-control supporters should donate to her campaign, posting a link to a fundraising page that asked would-be supporters to “show the NRA that Lucy cannot be bullied.”
On Monday afternoon, Meadows issued her apology through a spokesman.
“I apologize to Rep. McBath and her supporters,” she said. “My comments were insensitive and inappropriate. I did not intend to discredit the congresswoman or the merits of her campaign — only to reflect my view that the Second Amendment was not a prevailing factor in this election.”
Advocates and McBath’s fellow lawmakers panned Meadows’s comments, calling them inaccurate and offensive.
“This is a lie,” Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) said in a tweet. “My friend @lucymcbath is in Congress because she ran on a strong gun safety agenda that is supported by a majority of Americans. And she’s doing a damn good job of following through on those promises since coming to Washington.”
Others pointed out that districts like McBath’s, where conservatives have historically dominated, have actually been more difficult for women and women of color to win.
“If American history has taught us anything, surely it’s that the easiest path to political power is being a ‘minority female,’ ” deadpanned Joshua Benton, director of Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab.
McBath’s seat has belonged to leading Republican figures such as former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Tom Price, the onetime health and human services secretary in the Trump administration. Her district, which encompasses suburbs north of Atlanta, voted for George W. Bush and Mitt Romney by double digits, and residents narrowly favored President Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
When McBath won in November, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called her victory a “major Democratic upset.”
McBath has said she was pushed to protest when a man shot and killed her son after arguing with him and his friends over the volume of their car’s music. After her son’s killing, McBath quit her job as a flight attendant and became an outspoken advocate of gun control, testifying before Congress and starring in documentaries. She also served as a national spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
When a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., McBath said she was inspired by the activism of the student survivors. Soon after, she declared her bid for Congress, running on a platform shaped by years of gun-control advocacy.