The Slatest

What’s Up With Ross Perot Giving Bernie Sanders a Sword?

Ross Perot testifies before a California Senate committee in 2002
Former presidential candidate Ross Perot had a habit of giving swords as a gift.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Interesting things tend to bubble up about people after they die, and former presidential candidate Ross Perot, who died Tuesday, is no exception. In his case, it seems the billionaire philanthropist-turned-politician had a little-noticed hobby of handing out medieval sword replicas.

The internet caught on when Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted out a photo of a shiny blade with a jewel-encrusted hilt, a gift from Perot. Some of Sanders’ millions of followers suggested he should bring it (sheathed, of course) to the next Democratic debate. It didn’t take long for people to start asking the serious questions: Why the heck was Ross Perot handing out swords? Who else got one? Was this all a plan to discover the rightful king to sit at the head of the Round Table?

Turns out the sword—mounted on a plaque in Sanders’ office next to an engraved note from Perot—is a “replica” of Excalibur, the magical sword of legend belonging to King Arthur of Camelot in Celtic myth. In 2015, Sanders told the New York Times that the sword was a gift from Perot during an interview about his surging presidential campaign and his “outsider” status in the U.S. Senate. He told the Times, “That is from Ross Perot. … He said: ‘When media gives you a problem, take it out! Threaten them!’ ”

The faux-Excalibur wasn’t quite Perot’s endorsement for Sanders to become king, however. It was actually in recognition of Sanders’ work on veteran health care, according to his staff director, Warren Gunnels, and the Vermont senator wasn’t the only person who got one. Former Connecticut Rep. Christopher Shays also received a 3-foot replica of Excalibur from Perot, according to the Washington Post. It was valued at about $480. In June 2004, Perot wrote both Sanders and Shays in support of an amendment that the two then-congressmen had proposed in the House to provide $30 million for Gulf War illness research.

Others have reportedly received Excalibur from Perot too, including then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (now the NATO ambassador) and a few Navy SEALs responsible for taking down Osama Bin Laden. Other than that, there’s little out there about Perot’s quirky gift-giving practice, but he did explain it at an Air Force Academy symposium in 2012 when he himself received a blade from the school. “I give swords, rarely, to people who have done great things,” Perot said at the time. “Only the boldest knight can pull the sword from the stone.”