Video: Politicians battle over DeLay

updated 4/17/2005 7:33:30 PM ET 2005-04-17T23:33:30

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, under fire for alleged ethics violations, accused liberal Democrats and the national media of giving him a hard time in a keynote speech at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention Saturday evening.

DeLay only briefly mentioned the ethics accusations, telling members of the gun-rights group that he appreciated their support.

“When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, you want to have your friends around, preferably armed. So I feel really good,” the Republican from nearby Sugar Land said.

About 2,550 NRA members paid $75 to hear DeLay’s speech and dine on salad with goat cheese and sirloin steak with peppercorn cognac sauce. Many wore stickers that read: “I’m for the NRA and Tom DeLay.”

Gathering storm
Some of DeLay’s Republican colleagues have suggested in recent weeks that he resign as scrutiny builds over his overseas trips, political fund raising and his association with a lobbyist who is under federal investigation.

A district attorney in Texas is investigating a political fund raising committee DeLay helped launch to assist Republican candidates in the state’s 2002 legislative elections.

Three DeLay associates and eight corporations have been indicted in the investigation, although three companies have reached agreements with the prosecutor.

DeLay has not been charged with any wrongdoing in any of the cases and has denied any legal or ethics violations.

More than 100 protesters gathered outside the hotel that hosted the convention, many saying they were more concerned with deterring DeLay than with banning guns.

“He is an embarrassment to our district,” said protester Patricia Baig, a 57-year-old retired school teacher from Missouri City, Texas. “He doesn’t represent his district and it is time for him to do the honorable thing and resign.”

NRA's ally in Congress
The NRA, which as 4 million members, has helped elect Republican lawmakers, such as DeLay, who support the group’s efforts to limit lawsuits seeking damages against gun manufacturers and distributors and to make sure a ban on assault weapons isn’t resurrected.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, called DeLay the NRA’s steadfast ally in Congress.

“His work to preserve our constitutional rights has earned the respect of his colleagues, our 4 million members, and millions of law-abiding gun owners across this nation,” he said.

Earlier at the gathering, rock musician and gun-rights advocate Ted Nugent urged NRA members to be “hardcore, radical extremists demanding the right to self defense” and to work daily to recruit new members.

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