DOVER, N.H. -- Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush apologized Tuesday night for conflating his gun rights record by suggesting that he received an award from the National Rifle Association that doesn't exist.
The Bush campaign admitted on Monday that the former Florida governor was "mistaken and conflated multiple events unintentionally" when discussing an award he said he received from the NRA. On several occasions in the past year, Bush has suggested he received the group's Statesman of the Year award and was handed a rifle by former NRA president Charlton Heston at the group's annual convention.
But the NRA doesn’t give out a statesman award, and Bush didn’t receive a rifle from Heston. Instead, he was given a rifle for being the keynote speaker at the NRA’s 2003 annual convention in Orlando.
Asked by reporters on Tuesday why he made the mistake, Bush said: "I don’t know, I thought -- I just read it."
He defended his A-plus rating from the group for signing laws as Florida governor that bolstered gun rights, including the "stand your ground" law that allows Floridians to use deadly force to defend themselves.
"So I got it wrong as it related to Heston giving me the gun, but I met him there, they showed me the gun when he was there, you know? I don’t think that changes anything that on that stage, I am the most pro-Second Amendment person running for president, because I did it. I didn’t talk about it. If that offends your sensibilities, I apologize for getting that wrong, but I think the intent was pretty clear," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Bush attended a forum on drug addiction policy and spoke openly about his daughter, Noelle, and her well-documented struggles with drug addiction.
"When I was governor, my wife and I went through a very public challenge as a family," he told people attending the addiction conference, in Hooksett, N.H. "My daughter has addiction problems and is in recovery right now."
"Thank God. She is drug free," he added. "She’s a courageous young woman and she had to go through a very public challenge. The funny thing about public life is that people say, well, you’ve got to make sure that no special treatment is given. And in my daughter’s case, she got the benefit of no special treatment. She got extra treatment. And it was a difficult time for my wife and for me. And what I learned is that the pain that you feel when you have a loved one who has addiction challenges and kind of spirals out of control is that it's something that is shared with a whole lot of people."
Bush said Tuesday night that he gave his daughter advanced warning of his plans to talk about her struggle.
"I didn’t ask – I told her I was going to do it and I asked her if it was okay and I knew she was going to say yes because we’ve talked about it," he told reporters. "Not in an overt way, but it just dawned on me that this event was likely to be a place where I was to talk about this. And it’s not easy, I mean, we went through hell. It’s not easy at all. But I’m proud of her. I really am."