Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston (Former President)

Charlton Hestion - Former President of the NRA
Actor, President of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.

Actor Charlton Heston rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s for his roles in films like “The Ten Commandments,” “El Cid” and “Planet of the Apes.” He was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in “Ben-Hur” in 1959. Heston was an early supporter of the civil rights movement in America who picketed restaurants and movie theaters that practiced segregation. On August 28, 1963 he would join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the March on Washington. During a roundtable discussion conducted that day in a television studio, Heston discussed his involvement in the movement saying, “Like many Americans this summer, I could no longer pay only lip service to a cause that is so urgently right, and in a time that is so urgently now.” After the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy by a gunman, Heston championed the Gun Control Act of 1968, a landmark federal law regulating firearms. Appearing on ABC’s “The Joey Bishop Show,” Heston said about the Act: “This bill is no mystery. Let’s be clear about it. Its purpose is simple and direct. It is not to deprive the sportsman of his hunting gun, the marksman of his target rifle, nor would it deny to any responsible citizen his constitutional right to own a firearm. It is to prevent the murder of Americans.” Heston opposed the Vietnam War and considered running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, but by the 1980s his political affiliation changed with his endorsement of Republican Ronald Reagan for president. By 1997, he had joined the “Culture War,” delivering a fiery speech at the Free Congress Foundation that argued that American society persecuted whites. One year later, he was elected president of the National Rifle Association. During his tenure as NRA president, Heston was best known for a speech where he raised a musket over his head and said that then-presidential candidate Al Gore could have his gun when he pried it “from [Heston’s] cold, dead hands.” He was besieged by medical problems later in life, including alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease, and passed away in 2008.

Controversial Actions and Statements

Controversial Actions and Statements:

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Charlton Heston (Former President)

In the 2002 documentary “Bowling for Columbine,” when Heston was asked by filmmaker Michael Moore why the United States has such a high rate of gun violence compared to other developed nations, Heston responded, “Well, we have probably a more mixed ethnicity than other countries.”

Race
2002-01-01

Charlton Heston (Former President)

During a 1999 appearance at Harvard Law School, Heston delivered a speech entitled, “Winning The Culture War.” In his remarks, he referenced a controversial speech he delivered at the Free Congress Foundation in 1997, stating, “I’ve to come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land … I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963, long before Hollywood found it acceptable, I may say. But when I told an audience last year that ‘white pride’ is just as valid as ‘black pride’ or ‘red pride’ or anyone else’s pride they called me a racist. I’ve worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life, throughout my whole career. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe. I served in World War II against the Axis powers, but during the speech when I drew an analogy between singling out the innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite.” Heston also complained, “At Antioch College in Ohio, young men seeking intimacy with a co-ed must get verbal permission that each step of the process, from kissing, to petting, to finally at last copulation—all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive. In New Jersey, despite the death of several patients nationwide who had been infected by dentists who had concealed their own AIDs, the state commissioner announced that health providers, who are HIV positive, need-not tell their patients that they are infected. At William and Mary, students tried to change the name of the school team, ‘The Tribe,’ because it was supposedly insulting to local Indians, only to learn that authentic Virginia chiefs really liked the name ‘The Tribe.’ In San Francisco, city fathers passed an ordinance protecting the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the job and for transsexuals to have separate toilet facilities while undergoing sex change surgery. In New York City, kids who didn’t speak a word of Spanish have been placed in bilingual classes to learn their three hours in Spanish, solely because their own names sound Hispanic. At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands died at Gettysburg opposing slavery, the president of that college officially set up segregated dormitory space for black students. Yeah I know that’s out of bounds now. Dr. King said ‘Negros’, Jim Baldwin and most of us on the march said ‘black,’ but it’s a no-no now. For me hyphenated identities are awkward, particularly Native American. I am a Native American for God’s sake.” Heston went on to compare the struggles of white conservative America to those who participated in the Civil Rights Movement, stating, “You must be willing to be humiliated, to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma. You must be willing to experience discomfort.” He concluded by saying, “If Dr. King were here, I think he would agree.”

Health Care | Gay Rights | Race | Women’s Rights
1999-01-01

Charlton Heston (Former President)

During a December 7, 1997 speech before the Free Congress Foundation, a controversial think tank that promotes the far-right’s viewpoint in “The Culture War,” Heston compared the perceived plight of white conservative Americans to “European Jews … The Nazis forced them to wear six-pointed yellow stars sewn on their chests as identity badges. It worked. So what color star will they pin on our coats? How will the self-styled elite tag us? There may not be a Gestapo officer on every street corner yet, but the influence on our culture is just as pervasive.” He went on to say, “Heaven help the God-fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle class, Protestant, or even worse Evangelical Christian, Midwest, or Southern, or even worse rural, apparently straight, or even worse admittedly heterosexual, gun-owning or even worse NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff, or even worse male working stiff, because not only don't you count, you're a downright obstacle to social progress … The Constitution was handed down to guide us by a bunch of those wise old dead white guys who invented this country. Now, some flinch when I say that. Why? It's true...they were white guys. So were most of the guys who died in Lincoln's name opposing slavery in the 1860s. So why should I be ashamed of white guys? Why is ‘Hispanic pride’ or ‘black pride’ a good thing, while ‘white pride’ conjures up shaved heads and white hoods? Why was the Million Man March on Washington celebrated in the media as progress, while the Promise Keepers March on Washington was greeted with suspicion and ridicule? I'll tell you why: cultural warfare.” Heston also declared, “I find my blood pressure rising when Clinton's cultural shock troops participate in homosexual-rights fund-raisers but boycott gun rights fund-raisers...and then claim it's time to place homosexual men in tents with Boy Scouts, and suggest that sperm donor babies born into lesbian relationships are somehow better served and more loved … Mainstream America is depending on you counting on you to draw your sword and fight for them. These people have precious little time or resources to battle misguided Cinderella attitudes, the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition, the feminists who preach that it's a divine duty for women to hate men, [and] blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the other.” Heston’s speech is still featured on the website of white supremacist David Duke, who lauds the remarks by stating, “A few years ago I was astounded to read these courageous remarks by Charlton Heston. I am thankful to hear a man with such high esteem say essentially the same things for which I have been reviled by the liberal media. His words should be reproduced and put into the hands of every American.” Julian Bond, then-Board Chairman of the NAACP, reacted to the speech by saying, “Charlton Heston's civil rights credentials are seriously sullied by his bigoted and homophobic remarks and his attacks on racial minorities. The endorsement by white supremacist David Duke further threatens to erode the considerable respect many Americans felt toward Heston for his years-ago commitment to human rights.”

Republican Party (GOP) | Immigration | Gay Rights | Race | Religion | Women’s Rights
1997-12-07
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