New York Times: NRA suspends No. 2 over alleged role in coup

National Rifle Association suspended its No. 2 official Christopher Cox on Thursday following accusations in a lawsuit that he had aided the attempt to push out the group’s CEO Wayne LaPierre, the New York Times reported.

Cox and top aide Scott Christman have been placed on administrative leave, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the Times Thursday. The reported move is the latest revelation of infighting among the nation’s foremost gun lobby.

In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, the NRA alleged that former NRA President Oliver North attempted to oust LaPierre and that “another errant N.R.A. fiduciary, Chris Cox — once thought by some to be a likely successor for Mr. LaPierre — participated,” according to the Times.

The filing also included text messages between Cox and a board member in which they appear to discuss an attempt to remove LaPierre in an unclear context, the Times reported.

The new lawsuit comes amid existing litigation between the NRA and its longtime advertising firm Ackerman McQueen, with the gun group alleging that the firm attempted to orchestrate a failed coup against the NRA’s leadership and worked to smear the organization and LaPierre with leaks about the NRA’s finances.

Cox pushed back on the allegations in a statement to the Times, calling them “offensive and patently false.”

“For over 24 years I have been a loyal and effective leader in this organization,” he said. “My efforts have always been focused on serving the members of the National Rifle Association, and I will continue to focus all of my energy on carrying out our core mission of defending the Second Amendment.”

Cox has helmed the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, since 2002. But he has had a troubled relationship with LaPierre as the two represented the NRA, maintaining separate communications and consulting preferences, according to the Times.

Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the NRA’s lobbying arm, told the Times that the men had “worked closely together for a quarter of a century, and any notion that Chris participated in a coup is absurd. Chris Cox is known as a calming force who always acts in the best interests of our members by effectively defending the Second Amendment, so it’s not surprising that board members would reach out to him for advice during tumultuous times.”

Meanwhile, current NRA president Carolyn Meadows — North’s successor — told the Times in a statement, “I fully support the actions undertaken today. The N.R.A. is moving forward on all fronts, especially with regard to serving our members and focusing on the crucial upcoming elections.”

Further pursuit of Cox could mean more lawsuits — he is one of a trio of senior executives contractually owed one to four years of base pay should they be dismissed without cause, the Times reported after reviewing Massachusetts State records.