A spokeswoman for the NRA denied threatening to fist the New York Times — which she referred to as an “old gray hag” — in an officially sanctioned NRA video ostensibly promoting gun ownership.
In the video, released by the NRA and entitled “We’re Coming For You New York Times,” Dana Loesch, the American conservative talk show host turned NRA video spokesperson stares straight into the camera and accuses the paper of promoting “propaganda,” “fake news,” and the “constant protection of your Democrat overlords.”
But it was what she said next that prompted her to put out a statement denying threatening to perform a graphic sexual act on a paper whose standards prevent reporters from using the term in print.
“We’re going to [unclear] the New York Times and find out just what deep rich means to this old gray hag, this untrustworthy dishonest rag that has subsisted on the welfare of mediocrity for one two three more decades,” Loesch said. “We’re going to laser focus on your so-called honest pursuit of truth. In short we’re coming for you.”
The video spurred an onslaught of angry and confused tweets as to what Loesch actually said at precisely 0:29. Did she really say the NRA would fist the New York Times?
Loesch has denied using the word “fist,” saying in a statement that what she actually threatened to do was “fisk” the paper. But adding to the confusion is one of the hashtags appended to the NRA’s tweet containing the video — #ClenchedFistofTruth. And while “fisk” is not a word in the Merriam Webster dictionary, other online dictionaries list it as a slang term that means to refute or criticize, especially an article.
Loesch has since blamed the confusion on Adam Goldman, a reporter for the New York Times for having “an axe to grind.”
VICE News spoke to linguistics expert Donna Jo Napoli, of Swarthmore College, who analyzed the recording.
“It’s very hard to recognize a final consonant that doesn’t use any lip articulation (much harder than recognizing an initial one) and that’s hard enough,” Napoli said in an email. “People talk about lip reading like it’s some easy thing — it is not easy at all.
Napoli ultimately said she’d bet on “fisk” though, adding that although she played it at half speed and compared the letters “t” and “k” used in other words, a full spectrographic analysis would provide the most conclusive answer.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the slang definition of “fisk.”