After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and 49 other U.S. senators wrote a letter demanding the NFL take action on the name of the Washington Redskins, veteran Republican communications consultant Frank Luntz used a Nevada television appearance to blast Reid and the Senate for focusing on the issue instead of on more substantive causes involving veterans.
At no point during the Monday evening segment on KRNV’s “Ralston Reports” political talk show, however, did Luntz disclose that the Redskins have paid him for communications advice regarding the ongoing controversy around the team’s name.
Luntz brought Reid’s opposition to the name up without prompt from host John Ralston during a larger conversation about civility in politics.
“He’s spending his time trying to get the Washington Redskins, which, the last time I checked my map, is 2,000 miles away from Nevada, and he wants to change the Redskins’ name. And he hasn’t done, if you use my language, crap for veterans on Memorial Day,” Luntz said, referring to the current scandal around the Veterans Administration.
When Ralston suggested that Reid and the Senate could multi-task, Luntz kept going.
“Every veteran who’s watching right now ought to be furious with him because he’s spending his time…attacking the name of a football team. And he hasn’t done squat for these veterans,” Luntz said. “This is part of the reason that I find it difficult to function in politics, that he would rather go for the soundbite, that he would rather make this political gesture to raise money from Native Americans, than to actually solve a crisis in the Veteran’s Administration.”
The segment then moved on to talk about political ads and Nevada politics. Luntz never mentioned his work for the team.
ThinkProgress first reported Luntz’s involvement with the team in June 2013, when the Redskins hired him to hold a focus group on a number of issues facing the team ranging from its stadium to its name. In January, ThinkProgress reported that Luntz was part of a cadre of prominent political communications officials whom the team was consulting for advice on how to defend its name. Tony Wyllie, the Redskins’ executive vice president of communications, later confirmed that the team was paying Luntz, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and former Virginia Sen. and Gov. George Allen (R) for advice on the campaign to defend the name (it was already known that Lanny Davis, lobbyist and former Democratic White House press secretary, was working with the team as well).
Luntz’s response to Reid is similar to the public stance the team has taken when challenged by other Congressional leaders.
“With all the important issues Congress has to deal with, such as a war in Afghanistan to deficits to health care, don’t they have more important issues to worry about than a football team’s name?” Wyllie said in a statement responding to a February letter from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) that called for a name change. The team issued a similar statement when representatives from the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, which has led a campaign against the name, met with the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Fox Sports 1 hired Luntz as an on-air personality in February. Requests made to the Washington Redskins and Luntz’s firm, Luntz Global, about whether he was still working with the team were not immediately returned.