The National Rifle Association (NRA) today gave its Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award to Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
Pai was about to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland when the award presentation seemed to catch him by surprise. The award is a handmade long gun that could not be brought on stage, so it will be housed in the NRA museum until Pai can receive it.
“Ajit Pai, as you probably already know, saved the Internet,” American Conservative Union (ACU) Executive Director Dan Schneider told the audience. The ACU is the host of CPAC; Schneider made a few more remarks praising Pai before handing the award presentation over to NRA board member Carolyn Meadows.
Right Wing Watch posted a video of the ceremony:
Pai “fought to preserve your free speech rights” as a member of the FCC’s Republican minority during the Obama administration, Schneider said. Pai “fought and won against all odds, but the Obama administration had some curveballs and they implemented these regulations to take over the Internet.”
“As soon as President Trump came into office, President Trump asked Ajit Pai to liberate the Internet and give it back to you,” Schneider added. “Ajit Pai is the most courageous, heroic person that I know.”
The signature achievement that helped Pai win the NRA courage award came in December when the FCC voted to eliminate net neutrality rules. The rules, which are technically still on the books for a while longer, prohibited Internet service providers from blocking and throttling lawful Internet traffic and from charging online services for prioritization.
Schneider did not explain how eliminating net neutrality rules preserved anyone’s “free speech rights.”
Pai joins “distinguished pantheon” of winners
After Schneider spoke, Meadows told Pai that “the Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire award is sponsored by the National Rifle Association” in honor of the former NRA president, and it’s not given every year. It is only awarded “when someone has stood up under pressure with grace and dignity and principled discipline,” she said.
Previous awardees included Rush Limbaugh, Phyllis Schlafly, Vice President Mike Pence, Roy Innis, and Sheriff David Clarke, she said.
“We are honored to have you as part of this distinguished pantheon,” Meadows told Pai.
“Thank you ma’am, I really appreciate it,” Pai responded.
The actual award is a “Kentucky handmade long gun,” Meadows said. “We cannot bring it on stage,” she said, noting that it would be housed in the NRA’s museum along with a plaque honoring Pai. “When you can receive it, we’ll give it to you,” she said.
On the CPAC agenda, the segment involving Pai was titled, “American Pai: The Courageous Chairman of the FCC.” Pai and the other two Republican members of the FCC then participated in a panel about “how the FCC is paving the way for innovation.”