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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Bush Not Named ‘Statesman’ by NRA

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has said repeatedly that the National Rifle Association named him a “statesman of the year,” and that Charlton Heston gave him an award, or a rifle, about 10 years ago. His campaign now says he was mistaken on both counts.

Bush most recently made this claim on “Fox News Sunday” on Jan. 3. He boasted of his gun-rights record, saying that he was “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.”

The former Florida governor has made the same remark before, citing the “statesman of the year” award and the supposed award from Heston. In early October in South Carolina, Bush told reporters: “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. ”

CNN reported that Bush told the same story four times in New Hampshire in December, and also once in Iowa in October. But the Bush camp now says the candidate was wrong. A spokesman told BuzzFeed.com on Jan. 4 that Bush “was mistaken and conflated multiple events unintentionally.”

Bush spokesman, Jan. 4 as told to BuzzFeed: 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. 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.

Bush did give a keynote address in April 2003 at an annual meeting of the NRA, and was presented with a rifle. But the Associated Press reported at the time that while “Heston was supposed to present Bush with the firearm,” the then-outgoing president of the NRA was suffering from symptoms of Alzheimer’s and only spoke a few sentences at the meeting. Instead, Kayne Robinson, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, took over for Heston and made the rifle presentation.

The Orlando Sentinel reported at the time that the flintlock rifle Bush received from Robinson was “a vintage weapon traditionally given to NRA keynote speakers.”

Bush’s 2003 address to the NRA makes no mention of him receiving an award, or any “statesman of the year” designation. We asked Bush’s campaign whether he had received such an award from a different group, but we have not yet received a response.