Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai was scheduled to give a speech at the Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC) today, but instead he was surprised on stage by top brass of the American Conservative Union and the National Rifle Association with an award for his “courage under fire” in repealing net neutrality rules. Carolyn Meadows, a board member of the ACU and the NRA who presented Pai with the award, said that she couldn’t bring the physical award, a handmade rifle, onto the stage—likely because the event banned firearms.
Meadows presented Pai with the NRA’s “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award,” an honor that Meadows explained is only occasionally bestowed at CPAC to people like Vice President Mike Pence, far-right sheriff David Clarke and the late anti-feminist crusader Phyllis Schlafly.
Introducing Pai, the ACU’s Dan Schneider said that Pai had “saved 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 said. “Ajit Pai is the most courageous, heroic person that I know.”
Pai looked like he was caught off-guard by the surprise award, coming as it did as the NRA is coming under renewed scrutiny after a mass shooting at a Florida high school last week. Two NRA spokespeople had speaking slots at CPAC, but only after the ACU had hidden details about the timing of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s speech from the public.
Update 3/2/18: Pai declined the award the week after CPAC, citing ethics rules.