Eight-year old video footage of the National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President Wayne La Pierre and his wife Susan trophy-hunting African bush elephants – planet Earth’s largest land mammal – has been obtained by The Trace and The New Yorker, the outlet reported on Tuesday.
The couple traveled to the Okavango Delta in Botswana in September of 2013 to record themselves targeting big game to boast about their supposed firearm prowess as a promotion for the organization – the largest gun lobby in the United States – which has since filed for bankruptcy and is facing multiple fraud indictments in New York State.
“The trip was filmed by a crew from Under Wild Skies, an N.R.A.-sponsored television series that was meant to boost the organization’s profile among hunters—a key element of its donor base. But the program never aired, according to sources and records, because of concerns that it could turn into a public-relations fiasco,” according to records obtained by The New Yorker.
Columnist Mike Spies provided a synopsis of the incident. It was nothing short of barbaric.
The grisly encounter revealed that La Pierre is a sadistic fraud who despite his affinity for murdering large animals for fun has no idea how to successfully aim or fire a rifle. He was unable to complete the task without a steadier, more experienced hand:
When guides tracked down an elephant for LaPierre, the N.R.A. chief proved to be a poor marksman. After LaPierre’s first shot wounded the elephant, guides brought him a short distance from the animal, which was lying on its side, immobilized. Firing from point-blank range, LaPierre shot the animal three times in the wrong place. Finally, a guide had the host of ‘Under Wild Skies’ fire the shot that killed the elephant.
His wife, however, demonstrated superior marksmanship and a far more sinister bloodlust:
Later that day, Susan LaPierre showed herself to be a better shot than her husband. After guides tracked down an elephant for her, Susan killed it, cut off its tail, and held it in the air. ‘Victory!’ she shouted, laughing. ‘That’s my elephant tail. Way cool.’
For three decades, LaPierre has led the N.R.A.’s fund-raising efforts by railing against out-of-touch ‘élites’ and selling himself as an authentic champion of American self-reliance and the unfettered right to protect oneself with a gun. But the footage, as well as newly uncovered legal records, suggest that behind his carefully constructed Everyman image, LaPierre is a coddled executive who is clumsy with a firearm, and fearful of the violent political climate he has helped to create. The N.R.A. did not respond to requests for comment.
The footage of LaPierre in Botswana first shows him walking through the bush dressed in loose-fitting safari attire and an NRA Sports baseball cap. He is accompanied by several professional guides and his longtime adviser, Tony Makris, a top executive at the N.R.A.’s former public-relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, and the host of ‘Under Wild Skies.’ The heat, at times, causes LaPierre to sweat. As he walks, his wire-framed glasses slide down his nose. After a guide spots an elephant standing behind a tree, LaPierre takes aim with a rifle. As LaPierre peers through the weapon’s scope, the guide repeatedly tells him to wait before firing. LaPierre is wearing earplugs, doesn’t hear the instructions, and pulls the trigger. The elephant drops. ‘Did we get him?’ LaPierre asks.
The guide at first says yes, but then, as he approaches the elephant, it appears that the animal is still breathing. The guide brings LaPierre within a few strides of the elephant, which lays motionless on the ground. He tells LaPierre that another bullet is needed. ‘I’m going to show you where to shoot,’ the guide says. ‘Listen, hold your rifle—I’m going to tell you when. Just hold it up.’ The guide pushes the rifle’s barrel skyward as other men involved in the expedition move around in the distance. ‘I’m going to point for you where to shoot. Just waiting for these guys.’
The guide walks over to the elephant, crouches down, and points near the animal’s ear, telling LaPierre to shoot the elephant there. Makris directs LaPierre to shoot low, accounting for the rifle scope.
LaPierre fires and a confused expression comes over his face. Once again, he shoots the elephant in the wrong place. It’s still alive. The guide tells LaPierre to sit down and reminds him to reload, as he physically moves LaPierre into place. Now on one knee, the N.R.A. leader asks, ‘Same spot?’ and then shoots again. The bullet misses the mark.
‘I don’t think it’s quite done yet,’ the guide says to Makris. ‘Do you want to do it for him?’ The guide then says to LaPierre, ‘I’m not sure where you’re shooting.’
‘Where are you telling me to shoot?’ LaPierre responds, sounding frustrated. The guide again walks over to the elephant and points toward the ear. ‘Oh, O.K.,” LaPierre says. ‘Alright, I can shoot there.’ He takes a third shot at point-blank range.
‘Uh-uh,’ the guide says, indicating that LaPierre has missed his mark again.
‘No?’ LaPierre asks.
As the guide chuckles, Makris asks, ‘Do you want me to do it?’
‘Go ahead, finish him,’ the guide says.
Makris cocks his rifle and shoots. ‘That’s it,’ the guide declares, before turning to the N.R.A. chief to congratulate him.
The footage of the LaPierre hunt never aired, but records show that the couple still wanted their trophies. To avoid bad publicity—and at Susan’s written request—body parts from both elephants were shipped to the U.S. in a hidden manner. A man travelled two hours to Johannesburg to remove the couple’s names from shipping crates. The Master Airway Bill was in the name of a taxidermist, whom Makris’s company paid to turn the animals’ front feet into stools for Wayne and Susan’s home.
The nine-minute-long gut-wrenching video is available below. Viewer discretion is advised.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.