Oliver North grew up in Philmont, New York and attended college at the State University of New York at Brockport for two years before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. After seeing combat in Vietnam, North fulfilled a number of military assignments before joining the National Security Council (NSC) in 1981. North remained with the NSC until he was fired in 1986 when his role in the Iran-Contra Affair was revealed. In 1994 North served as the Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia, losing to Democrat Charles Robb. Shortly before the election, former First Lady Nancy Reagan said North “lied to my husband and lied about my husband.” Since leaving politics, North has authored books and made television appearances to discuss military and political matters. In the 2010 NRA Board of Directors elections, North received more votes than any other candidate.
Controversial Actions and Statements:
On a broadcast of “Cam & Company,” North addressed President Barack Obama’s upcoming recommendations on gun violence prevention, scheduled to be revealed at a press conference on January 16, 2013. North stated, “The National Rifle Association is one of the greatest protectors of civil liberties that has ever existed on the planet Earth … If you have served in the armed forces of the United States of America, took that oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, I invite you now to join this organization that was formed by military personnel in the aftermath of the great war called the War Between the States. 1871. And I invite you to join us now to protect that Constitution because no other organization in our country is going to stand up for your civil liberties like the NRA.”
On the December 18, 2012 broadcast of the Glenn Beck Radio Program, North spoke to Joe Pags about President Barack Obama’s administration, stating “We’re in deep trouble in America … The background of all of this is a condition of governance today which is bereft of moral leadership. It is absent of any vision for America other than leading from behind and acquiescing to a global perspective that somehow the United Nations is gonna solve our problems if we simply surrender our sovereignty, our independence and our ability to defend ourselves.” North was referring to a U.N. Small Arms Treaty that would set only international standards for the import/export of conventional weapons—leaving it to individual countries to “regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership.” Pags asked North, “How is it that we’ve gotten to that point in this country that the government thinks we work for them and not the other way around?” North replied, “This, I think, relates a lot to what just transpired up in Connecticut and what we’ve now seen with these killings. Over the course of the last fifty years, basically two and a half generations, this country has walked away from its founding principles. We’ve said, we’re not gonna allow prayer in schools. Role models that I grew up with, to give you an example my dad was a soldier. Two wars, Korea and World War II. Every one of my male teachers was either a veteran of World War II, or Korea, or both. These were people I looked up to … Where are those guys and people today? Are parents taking the kids to Sunday school or church? Are they taking them and showing them the positive, adult, male role models in life?” North was referring to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in which 20 first-grade students and six adults were shot and killed. Pags asked North, “I think we’ve got too many single parent households. I don’t know how we got here. Is government to blame for that at all, or have we as a society rolled over and said, ‘Forget it. We don’t have to worry about the old value system’? North replied, “Well, I think to an extent both are true. First of all, the idea of no-fault divorce became very, very attractive back in the 60s. The idea that we’re not gonna allow prayer or God to be mentioned in schools. We’ve all talked about the War on Christmas the last couple of years but, it’s not just Christmas. It’s the entire Judeo-Christian framework of our country.”
In a November 1, 2012 op-ed for the Washington Times, North wrote, “When Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman sat down to draft the Declaration of Independence, they began with a ‘Bill of Particulars’ against King George III. They accused the monarch of ‘repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.’ Now, 236 years later, ‘We the People’ are about to decide whom we should hire as our chief executive and commander in chief. It’s an appropriate time to review the grievances of our Founding Fathers—and examine the offenses committed by our present head of state”:
- “HE has redefined Marriage and enacted Rules and Regulations abridging the religious Liberties and Freedom of Conscience protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution by requiring church-affiliated Institutions to provide Insurance Coverage for Contraception and Abortions under Obamacare.” Though President Barack Obama has stated publicly that he supports same-sex marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as that between a man and a woman, remains law. Furthermore, while the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does require religiously affiliated institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception, it did not in any way alter existing, strict federal restrictions on the funding of abortion.
- “HE has bowed to foreign Potentates, begged our Adversaries for Space and Time until after the Election, and apologized for the Blood and Treasure expended by brave Americans in offering Others the Hope of Freedom.” President Obama has bowed to several foreign dignitaries during the course of his presidency, including the Saudi King, the Emperor of Japan, and the Queen of England, as a customary gesture of respect upon greeting them. North’s “Space and Time” reference is in regards to a discussion President Obama had with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in which he told Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” to deal with contentious foreign policy issues, such as missile defense, following the November 2012 elections. North was also likely referring to speeches President Barack Obama gave in 2009. “Blood and Treasure” might reference a speech in Strasbourg, France on April 3, 2009, in which President Obama stated, “America Has Shown Arrogance.” Additionally, in President Obama’s address to the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on April 17, 2009, he stated, “While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership.”
- “HE declared an act of Terrorism at Fort Hood, Texas, to be workplace Violence… [and] failed to dispatch military Force to save Americans in Harm’s way in Benghazi.” North was referring to a mass shooting at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009. In that shooting, Nidal Hassan, an Army psychiatrist killed 12 people and wounded 30 others. The Department of Defense classified the shooting as “workplace violence.” He was also referring to an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya on September 11, 2012. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack. Congressional hearings revealed that the State Department was aware of, and rejected, several requests for increased security in Benghazi; however, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the U.S. House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security stated on October 9, 2012 that House Republicans had consciously voted to reduce the funds allocated to the State Department for embassy security since winning the majority in 2010. When asked if he had voted to reduce funding for embassy security, Chaffetz stated, “Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have…15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.”
In a September 27, 2012 op-ed for the Washington Times, North wrote to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney some of the things U.S. Armed Services members would like to hear from him at the first presidential debate, stating, “I proffer a few lines you may want to use in the upcoming debates. Full disclosure here: These aren’t my ideas. This is what the brightest and bravest of this generation now in uniform hope to hear from our next president:”
- “If you make me your commander in chief, I will bow to God Almighty—but never to a foreign potentate.” North was likely referring to President Barack Obama bowing to several foreign dignitaries during the course of his presidency, including the Saudi King, the Emperor of Japan, and the Queen of England.
- “I never will apologize for the blood and treasure our country has sacrificed in offering others the hope of freedom.” North was likely referring to speeches President Barack Obama gave in 2009. For example, in a speech in Strasbourg, France, April 3, 2009, President Obama stated, “America has shown arrogance.” In President Obama’s address to the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on April 17, 2009, he stated, “While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership.”
- “I never will call an act of terrorism ‘workplace violence.’” North was referring to a mass shooting at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009. In that shooting, Nidal Hassan, an Army psychiatrist killed 12 people and wounded 30 others. The Defense Department classified the shooting as “workplace violence.”
- “I never will announce an arbitrary deadline for withdrawing from battle and give advantage to our adversaries.” North was referring to President Barack Obama’s June 22, 2011, announcement that he would withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2014 as Afghan security forces replace them.
- “I won’t beg the Russians –or anyone else—for more ‘space,’ saying I can be more ‘flexible’ after an election.” North was referring to a discussion President Obama had with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in which he told Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” to deal with contentious foreign policy issues, such as missile defense, following the November 2012 elections.
- “Though I am committed to reducing the size and cost of the federal government, I will insist that Congress provide funds necessary to deter aggression, keep America’s military No. 1 in the world and keep faith with all who have served and who now look—often in vain—for a good job.” North was likely referring to President Obama’s plan to cut $487 billion in planned military spending by 2022. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the cuts acceptable and because of budget restraints, inevitable.
In an August 14, 2012 interview with Newsmax, North stated that the killing of American soldiers by our Afghan allies “is the bitter harvest of [President] Barack Obama’s decision to announce withdrawal.” In North’s words, “Even though it was announced over a year ago, what you’re seeing is the rush to the exits. The need to increase the number of recruits for the Afghan National Security Forces, meaning the Army and the police, their intelligence services, has gone up dramatically. The ability to screen them as they’re coming in and vet out those who might be terrorists is almost gone. So the end result is the terrorists now know if they’re going to kill an infidel, you’ve only got a short window in which to get it done. You’re going to see a whole lot more of this. It’s become the number-one killer of Americans, replacing the IED as the most lethal part of this war, and it’s all because an announcement was made telling everybody, the enemy included, when we were leaving.” When asked if radical Islam was still a threat to American citizens, North replied, “Well you certainly wouldn’t know it by the way this White House and the State Department are acting, but yes, it is. [Some Americans] think the War on Terror is won just because bin Laden is dead and oh, by the way, Barack Obama did it. The fact is radical Islam will continue to be a major threat to American interests and our citizens, and another attack like 9/11 or the embassy attacks back in the 90s under the Clinton administration are entirely likely unless America does more to make sure that radical Islam does not get a toehold in places where they can train for those kinds of activities.” On June 22, 2011, President Obama announced that he would withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2014 as Afghan security forces replace them.
In a July 28, 2012 op-ed for Townhall, North wrote, “When Alexander the Great died at the age of 32 in 323 B.C., his once unbeatable army began a 2,900-mile withdrawal from India and headed home to Macedonia. As they retreated, the empire they had created collapsed behind them. To prevent pursuit, Alexander’s royal cavalry and infantry dealt viciously with all internal dissent, destroyed cities and burned bridges. The Russians employed a similar scorched-earth tactic against Napoleon in 1812, as did the Red Army when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. It’s a maneuver now being employed both domestically and internationally by [President] Barack Obama.” North also addressed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking investigation on the southwest border, stating, “[In Mexico] nearly 50,000 people have been killed in drug-fueled violence since 2006. With narco-terrorism now spreading to neighboring Guatemala and Honduras, the [Obama administration] decided to allow thousands of firearms to flow across the U.S. border to drug cartels in the ill-conceived “Fast and Furious” operation. The result: more dead Mexicans, at least one dead American Border Patrol agent and Attorney General Eric Holder held in contempt of Congress [for failure to comply with a congressional subpoena].” A report released by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General on September 19, 2012 found that there is no evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder was aware of the tactics used in “Fast and Furious” until after it was concluded in 2011.
In a July 6, 2012 op-ed for the Freedom Alliance, North wrote, “’We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.’ Those are potent words – from the only seminal document of any country on the planet to pay homage to Almighty God. No other founding document reflects on ‘the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.’ And no other instrument of popular intent places the fate of its founders in the hand of God with words such as these: ‘For the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.’ The 56 men who penned their signatures below those words inspired a new nation. God willing, we have not become so cynical and secular that we forget what made us the land of the free.” In fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution explicitly prohibited the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.”
On June 6, 2012, the Washington Post published an article reporting that Oliver North may have plagiarized a part of his May 18, 2012 Memorial Day op-ed at a Fox News website. In the piece, North claimed that he turned to a “dear friend”—an Army vet and Medal of Honor recipient named Sammy L. Davis—to explain why it is important for veterans to travel to Washington to honor those who died in the Vietnam War. Davis, responded, according to North, by stating, “Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted their best, men who suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to their humanity … I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate. But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another.” These words appear verbatim in “These Good Men: Friendships Forged in War,” a 1990 memoir written by Michael Norman, a Vietnam War veteran. Davis told Norman that North never asked him for the comment, and though Davis emailed Norman’s quote to North, he never intended for North to publish it. After a reporter brought the issue to Fox News’ attention, the op-ed was removed and re-posted without the passage. An appended editor’s note was included that mentioned, without explanation, that the paragraphs had been removed and that North had included them “through no fault of his own.” Later, the column was removed from Fox’s website altogether.
In October 2011, North phoned into America’s Radio News to criticize a decision by the Obama administration to recall all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. North said, “This administration was committed to doing away with America’s military force, basically, years ago. They are now carrying that out.” He also claimed that the “the people who are most glad of this [withdrawing from Iraq] aren’t going to be Americas soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines. Its gonna be the Iranians.” When the interviewer began to ask, “You say this administration has failed foreign policies, but they got [Osama] bin Laden, they got [Muammar] Ghaddafi, they’re doing what most Americans want which is getting out of Iraq,” North interrupted, “The unmanned aerial vehicles—which our colleagues in the media mistakenly call ‘drones’—were bought under the budget provided by George W. Bush. They’ve more than quadrupled the numbers of them available. As you’ve noticed, most of the action is now taking place with special operations troops who were recruited and funded by the Bush Administration.” When asked whether President Obama could take any credit for using the drone program “to great effect,” North stated, “[The President] is taking some of the advice provided by the military commanders on the battlefield, using assets that were not available during the Bush Administration. But they had the foresight to go ahead and start building these things, paying for them, and recruiting the people—I’m talking specifically now about the special operators—who could go on the ground and validate that the target was the real thing.” North also called the United States intervention in Libya a failure because of the Obama Administration’s decision to not send American combat troops into Libya.
In a May 3, 2011 appearance on the radio show “NRA News,” North claimed, “The enhanced interrogation for which George W. Bush was so criticized going all the way back to 2003—that enhanced interrogation was what allowed us to find out where [Al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden was hiding and if you hadn’t had it, you still wouldn’t have the guy.” This claim has been debunked by many government officials, including U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who wrote, “I have sought further information from the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and they confirm for me that, in fact, the best intelligence gained…was obtained through standard, non-coercive means, not through any ‘enhanced interrogation technique.’”
In an April 29, 2011 address at the NRA annual convention, North thanked the crowd for “making Fox News number one in America.” In his remarks, he asked, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a president of the United States who respects the sanctity of human life and the sanctity of marriage as something we Americans hold dear?” North also questioned Obama’s credentials on foreign policy, saying, “We need a Commander in Chief who’s unafraid to describe our enemies as who they are. They’re not extremists. They’re radical Islamic terrorists that threaten this country.” Finally, he added, “We need a Commander in Chief who cares more about the troops he leads than his birth certificate.”
North wrote an April 17, 2009 op-ed for the Patriot Post, commenting, “According to the U.S. government, I am an extremist. I am a Christian and meet regularly with other Christians to study God’s word. My faith convinces me the prophecies in the Holy Bible are true. I believe in the sanctity of human life, oppose abortion, and want to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. I am a veteran with skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. I own several firearms, and I frequently shoot them, buy ammunition, and consider efforts to infringe on my Second Amendment rights to be wrong and unconstitutional. I fervently support the sovereignty of the United States, and I am deeply concerned about our economy, increasingly higher taxes, illegal immigration, soaring unemployment, and actions by our government that will bury my children beneath a mountain of debt.”
Fox News |
In a January 7, 2011 op-ed for the Patriot Post, North expressed his belief that “death panels” existed in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 health care reform bill.
In a December 2010 editorial for Fox News in opposition to the potential repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, North wrote: “Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hideki Tojo tried and failed. Mao Zedong, Nikita Khrushchev and Ho Chi Minh couldn’t do it. But Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama may well succeed where others could not. If he has his way, he will demolish the finest force for good in the history of mankind—the U.S. Armed Forces.”
After an admirer told North, “The way our government is acting today, I think I understand why the South seceded,” North called the man’s comment “strong stuff,” and continued: “Academics still debate whether President James Buchanan and his successor, Abraham Lincoln, could have prevented the cataclysm over states’ rights. Sadly, the Obama administration, by ineptness or design, seems intent on enflaming similar disputes through repeated assertions of federal ‘authority.’”
North alluded to the potential repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy In a June 2010 opinion piece for Fox News, writing, “The present commander-in-chief has decided to treat the young men and women of our military like lab rats in a radical social-engineering experiment.”
In March 2010, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) accused North of misrepresenting how donations to his Freedom Alliance charity were being used. CREW disputed North’s claim that, “There’s no overhead. There’s no expenses taken out. Every penny that’s donated or that’s raised through things like the Freedom Concerts goes to the scholarship fund.”
On February 4, 2010, North appeared on “Hannity” and said that a repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy would lead to, “NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Love Association] members, same-sex marriages [in the Armed Forces]. Are chaplains in the U.S. military going to be required to perform those kinds of rituals? Do they get government housing?”
North’s Freedom Alliance has donated money to the Team America PAC, an anti-immigration Political Action Committee founded by former Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO). Team America PAC is perhaps best known not for its political work but for an incident in which intoxicated Executive Director Marcus Epstein attempted to karate chop an African American woman in the head while calling her the N-word. Epstein pled guilty, but retained his position with Team America.
In an April 3, 2009 op-ed for the Patriot Post, North wrote, “Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus and his friends in the Roman legislature on the ides of March 44 B.C. Free enterprise died at the hands of Barack and his friends in the American legislature on the 30th of March 2009 [when General Motors Chair and CEO Rick Wagoner stepped down after being asked to resign by the Obama administration as part of the government’s conditions for GM and Chrysler to restructure before receiving more federal aid]. The following day, those same ministers of American government completed the death warrant for civic duty in our republic. They called it the “Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.” The bill passed—as did the killing of Caesar—with overwhelming support from the legislature.” The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act funds AmeriCorps and other organizations that promote volunteerism.
In January 2009, North called former Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC)—who famously and fiercely opposed the creation of a national Martin Luther King Jr. Day—“ a man of rare principle and fortitude in a town full of politicians who stick their fingers in the wind to determine how to vote.”
On June 2, 2008, North praised Republican presidential candidate John McCain by saying: “In all the many months that I’ve spent covering these young Americans on the battlefield there’s only one candidate running for public office who I have seen in places like Ramadi or Fallujah. There’s only one candidate running for president of the United States who has said, ‘I will not fail you.’ There is only one candidate running for president of the United States who has said, ‘I have a formula for victory and I will not abandon your fight.’ I have heard him tell that to the young Americans he has seen and listened to on the battlefield. My friends, I don’t believe our nation can handle four years of Barack Obama. I don’t believe our nation can survive abandoning the cause for which these young Americans have fought.”
At a March 1993 Republican fundraising dinner attended by 250 people, North delivered remarks pretending to be a homosexual caller to the White House. North joked that he had tried to call President Bill Clinton, but the switchboard didn’t put him through until he adopted an exaggerated, effeminate lisp. When North was asked to apologize for his remarks by the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizens Association, he responded, “If it angered some subset, that’s their problem.”
North was a central figure in the Iran-Contra Affair. The political scandal, which came to light in November 1986, involved U.S. officials violating an arms embargo to sell weapons to Iran, and then using the residual profits to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua. North oversaw the transfer of the arms profits to the Contras, who engaged in widespread human rights abuses, including the rape and murder of civilians. They also had links to drug traffickers. In July 1987, North admitted to lying to Congress and shredding important documents related to the Iran-Contra scheme, which he referred to as a “neat idea.” He was later indicted on 16 felony counts before being convicted on three of them in 1989. The conviction was vacated in 1990.
On September 17, 1987, North sought leniency for Honduran General José Bueso Rosa. Rosa tried to ship $40 million worth of cocaineto the United States in order to fund an attempt to assassinate Honduran President Roberto Suazo Córdoba but was caught by the FBI.North was afraid that if he did not help Rosa avoid a long jail sentence, the general would expose the extent of the United State’s support of the Contra rebels.
On May, 5 1985, North wrote to Admiral John Poindexter, “You will recall that over the years Manuel Noriega in Panama and I have developed a fairly good relationship.” At the time North was attempting to strike a deal where the United States would help improve the dictator’s image in exchange for Noriega’s help in defeating the Sandinistas. North’s exchange with Poindexter also revealed that North had met Noriega on a boat on the Potomac River.
In an April 6, 2012 op-ed for the Patriot Post that discussed the Passover and Easter religious holidays, North wrote, “The Egyptian Pharaohs and Roman emperors are gone. Yet Jews and Christians now living in the region must contend with new lethal threats: the hatred of radical Islamists seizing power from Tunisia to Syria; vicious sectarian cleansing; and the prospect of being incinerated by an Iranian nuclear weapon. Tragically, all this is being facilitated by the catastrophic incompetence, malfeasance, naivete and hubris of an American president—with the complicity of the mainstream media.” North’s mention of Tunisia was a reference to the “Arab Spring” phenomenon. During 2010 and 2011, widespread protests in Tunisia eventually led to a change in government and democratic reforms. North concluded his column by writing, “According to Matthew’s Gospel, Judas Iscariot sold out Jesus of Nazareth for 30 pieces of silver. What is Barack Obama’s fee for selling out Christians and Israelis?”