It turns out Moses never gave Jeb Bush a rifle.
The Republican presidential candidate has told crowds several times in the past year about receiving the National Rifle Association’s Statesman of the Year Award from Charlton Heston, the late Hollywood star widely known for playing Moses in the 1956 movie “The Ten Commandments.”
“You know who you’re lookin’ at here? You’re looking at the guy who won the NRA Statesman of the Year Award,” Bush said last month at a town hall in Milford, N.H. “Not the Florida award. The national award. And I got a rifle from Charlton Heston, I got a rifle from Moses.”
But the NRA doesn’t give out a statesman award, and Bush didn’t receive a rifle from Heston, his campaign said Monday. Instead, he was given a rifle for being the keynote speaker at the NRA’s 2003 annual convention in Orlando.
“In recounting the story, Jeb was mistaken and conflated multiple events unintentionally,” Tim Miller, his campaign’s communications director, said in a statement. “Heston met with Jeb at that NRA convention and was the head of the NRA at the time, but it was Kayne Robinson” — who succeeded Heston as NRA president — “who presented Jeb with the rifle for being keynote speaker.”
Miller added that Heston endorsed Bush’s 2002 reelection as governor of Florida and that Bush “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.’ ”
News of the discrepancy was first reported by BuzzFeed News.
Heston, who served as NRA president from 1998 to 2003, died in April 2008.
Marion Hammer, who preceded Heston as NRA leader, confirmed on Monday that Bush did not receive the rifle from Heston but instead from Lee Hamill, a man who had made the rifle for the occasion. An Asssociated Press photo taken at the time shows Bush, Robinson and Hamill together on the stage at the presentation.
“The script was read, the rifle was presented to Gov. Bush from the NRA and Lee Hamill handed it to him. Not Mr. Heston,” she said.
Bush’s gun rights record is not in dispute — he had an A-plus NRA rating over his eight years as Florida governor. From 1999 to 2007, he signed several laws expanding gun rights, including the “stand your ground” bill that permitted people to use firearms or other deadly force to defend themselves.
Seeking to win over conservative voters, Bush has regularly touted his gun record and has often included the story about Heston.
This weekend on “Fox News Sunday,” for example, Bush 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.”
While campaigning in Greenville, S.C., on Oct. 7, Bush told a reporter who asked about the Second Amendment: “In Florida, when I was governor, I was — 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.”
In Muscatine, Iowa, on Oct. 2, he told a town hall meeting, “On my highlight reel was winning the Statesman of the Year Award from the NRA at their national conference. A huge group. And I got a rifle from Charlton Heston.
“I don’t hang out with many celebrities,” he added. “That’s the guy I love the most. I thought he was fantastic.”
Campaigning in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on July 14, Bush told a packed sports bar that “During my tenure as governor I won the NRA’s Statesman of the Year one of those years. To receive the award from Charlton Heston was on my highlight film, to be honest with you.”
Bush told the story three other times in late December in New Hampshire and in South Carolina in September, according to a CNN review of his remarks.
Bush is scheduled to spend this week campaigning across New Hampshire, a state with a strong hunting and firearms culture and where talk of gun rights could be a deciding factor for some GOP voters.
Hammer said she was upset by all the attention being given to Bush’s erroneous comments.
“He never really wanted an award for doing what was only natural and the right thing to do,” she said. “In terms of being a strong Second Amendment supporter, his record is all you need to look at.”