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Oliver North, key figure in Iran-Contra scandal, to become NRA president

The square-jawed lieutenant colonel was a ubiquitous face during the Reagan era.
Image: US Marine Corps Lt. Col. (Ret.) Oliver North speaks at an NRA convention in Dallas
Oliver North at the NRA convention in Dallas on May 4.Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Oliver North, the retired U.S. Marine who was at the center of the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal, will become the president of the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun rights group announced on Monday.

North will take over the post within a few weeks, the NRA said in a statement.

"This is the most exciting news for our members since Charlton Heston became president of our association," said Wayne LaPierre, the vice president and public face of the group, referring to the late actor and activist.

“Oliver North is, hands down, the absolute best choice to lead our NRA Board, to fully engage with our members, and to unflinchingly stand and fight for the great freedoms he has defended his entire life," LaPierre said.

North, 74, was a key figure in the national controversy over the sale of arms to Iran and the funneling of proceeds to the rebel Contras in Nicaragua. The ensuing political drama dominated headlines during President Ronald Reagan's second term.

The square-jawed lieutenant colonel was a ubiquitous face on American television during the much-hyped Iran-Contra hearings. North, a former military aide to the National Security Council, testified in 1987 that he had "never carried out a single act, not one," without federal authorization.

North was convicted on three charges in 1989, including obstructing Congress during its investigation, but those convictions were overturned in 1991. He later unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate as the Republican candidate in Virginia and wrote several books.

He will take over from Pete Brownell, who the NRA said had decided not to seek a second term. North, who will retire as a Fox News commentator effectively immediately, said he was "eager to hit the ground running as the new NRA president."