Before Trump, Oliver North Was Dishonest—and Beloved

The incoming president of the National Rifle Association has a long—and notorious—history of peddling alternative facts.
OPEN ARMS: Oliver North's return to national prominence offers some clear lessons, both for the president and his detractors.
PER_Ollie_01_EKM136 Source: Illustration by Gluekit; Photo: Zach D Roberts/ZUMA Wire/Alamy

Three decades ago, long before President Donald Trump bragged about the size of his inauguration crowd, Oliver North—the new president of the National Rifle Association—held the country in thrall with his own displays of dissembling and dishonesty, turning a fundamental disregard for facts into a political strength. As the Trump-Russia probe continues, North’s rise, fall and return to national prominence offer some clear lessons, both for the president and his detractors.

A former Marine who served on the National Security Council (NSC) staff under President Ronald Reagan, North was at the core of the biggest political scandal of that era—the Iran-Contra affair. (He eventually was convicted on three criminal charges, although an appeals panel vacated the convictions on a technicality.) The scandal involved a bumbling series of covert ops in the mid-1980s centered on a scheme to sell U.S. missiles to Iran; the plot was to siphon the profits to Contra rebels

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