A spokesman for Jeb Bush’s campaign told BuzzFeed News on Monday that Bush had “mistaken and conflated” his story about receiving the National Rifle Association’s “statesman of the year” award.
The former Florida governor has told the story on several occasions, saying he received a rifle from then-NRA president Charlton Heston and was the recipient of the group’s “statesman of the year” honor in 2003.
While the NRA rates the records of politicians on gun issues, the group does not hand out a statesman of the year award. In 2003, the NRA held its annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, with Bush as the keynote speaker. The NRA’s meeting page from that year makes no mention of Bush receiving any award.
A BuzzFeed News search of various archive search engines like Lexis Nexis for the “statesman of the year” award and Jeb Bush only turned up comments this year made by Bush.
“In recounting the story, Jeb was mistaken and conflated multiple events unintentionally. Heston met with Jeb at that NRA convention and was the head of the NRA at the time, but it was Kayne Robinson who presented Jeb with the rifle for being keynote speaker,” a spokesman told BuzzFeed News. “Heston had previously said he supported Jeb’s reelection at a 2002 campaign event. Jeb was lauded by the NRA on multiple occasions for his second amendment record, including signing legislation that the NRA dubbed the ‘Six Pack Of Freedom.’ Jeb has a lifetime A+ rating from the NRA.”
The Sarasota Republican Party in Florida does hand out out an annual “statesman of the year” award, the most recent receipt being Donald Trump.
Bush uses the anecdote to illustrate his long history of supporting gun rights. He told the story as recently as this past weekend, saying on Fox News Sunday, “The best approach is to have the laws be thoroughly vetted at the state level. And that’s why I’m proud of the fact I have perhaps the most pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment record as a governor of any state in the country. It’s why I was statesman of the year of the NRA. I received an award from Charlton Heston about 10 years ago.”
At an event in South Carolina in October, Bush said, “In Florida, when I was governor, I was the NRA statesman of the year, one year it was on my highlight reel where Charlton Heston gave me a gun on the stage in front of 15,000 people, that was pretty cool to be honest with you.”
Heston, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and was stepping down that year, was originally intended to present Bush the rifle. Heston left the convention early, and the rifle was instead presented by the new president, Kayne Robinson. Though, noted Marion Hammer a former NRA president from Florida Bush and Heston did meet at the convention.
Robinson, presenting the rifle to Bush, said, “In keeping with our tradition of giving a great American rifle to a great American patriot, I am proud to present this.”
The flintlock rifle is traditionally given to keynote speaker at the convention.
A Bush spokesman noted the tweet and Facebook post on the award would be removed.
An Associated Press photo of Bush receiving the rifle.
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