Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has often recounted the tale of how he received the "Statesman of the Year" award from the National Rifle Association, but it turns out his story was just that — a tale.
As uncovered by Buzzfeed News, not only does the NRA not actually give out a "Statesman of the Year" award, Charlton Heston did not present the former Florida governor with a rifle — a rifle that Bush has frequently said he was "proud" to receive in 2003.
According to records, the NRA held its 2003 annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, with Bush as the keynote speaker. As is custom, Bush was presented with a rifle for being the keynote speaker. But Heston, who died in 2008, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and was stepping down as president of the gun rights organization and left the convention early. The NRA's new president, Kayne Robinson, was the man who presented Bush with the rifle.
"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 spokesperson for Bush told Buzzfeed in a statement. "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."
Marion Hammer, a former NRA president from Florida, confirmed to Buzzfeed that Bush and Heston did meet one another while at the convention.
"In keeping with our tradition of giving a great American rifle to a great American patriot, I am proud to present this," Robinson told Bush when presenting him with the rifle, an archived article from the Orlando Sentinel revealed.
According to the Washington Post, Lee Hamill, the man who made the rifle, was the one who actually handed over the gun.
"The script was read, the rifle was presented to Gov. Bush from the NRA, and Lee Hamill handed it to him. Not Mr. Heston," Hammer told the Washington Post.
Bush had recounted the story of his award from Heston as recently as last weekend during a "Fox and Friends" appearance when he said that he has "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," he said.
He has also told the story while campaigning in New Hampshire in late December as well as in South Carolina and Iowa multiple times in July, September and October, according to the Washington Post.
(H/T: Buzzfeed News)