WASHINGTON - The National Rifle Association is standing by a controversial online ad sparking heated debate on social media.
The video featuring conservative radio host Dana Loesch prompted strong criticism, including from some gun owners.
"They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler,” Loesch is heard saying in the video. "And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance. All to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia, to smash windows, burn cars.”
The ad, titled The Violence of Lies, has been viewed nearly 5 million times. Some say it calls for a civil war.
"The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, to fight this violence of lies is with a clenched fist of truth,” Loesch says in the ad.
Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson wrote on Twitter, “This NRA ad is an open call to violence to protect white supremacy. If I made a video like this, I’d be in jail.”
Virginia Rep. Don Beyer said the ad attempted to exploit the shooting in Alexandria, writing on Twitter, “So they’re trying to exploit Alexandria and cutting disgusting ads to make people afraid and divide people even more.”
Loesch pointed out that even though the video is now going viral, it was actually posted online back in April. She told Fox News host Tucker Carlson she was not calling for violence.
“The reaction to this is insane," Loesch said. "I’m talking over video clips that show actual leftist violence, writing, property damage, arson, physical assault and apparently me condemning violence is what's inciting and dividing America."
“This lawmaker (Rep. Don Beyer) was somehow suggesting I was exploiting Alexandria when in fact I was warning people, 'Look, everybody stop. Everyone chill out for a little bit and cool your jets and let’s have civil discussion, otherwise some bad things are going to happen because there are crazy people out there,'” she continued.
The NRA states the ad simply pointed out leftist violence and noted that Americans have the right to defend themselves.
An online petition urging Facebook to remove the ad, alleging it incites violence, has more than 21,000 signatures.