GOP lawmaker's aide fired over offensive claims on Florida shooting survivors
A Florida state representative's aide was fired from his position on Tuesday after he sent an email to a reporter alleging that two outspoken survivors of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were "actors."
Benjamin Kelly, an aide to State Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, was fired after emailing the Tampa Bay Times' Washington bureau chief Alex Leary to say that David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, two students who have been extremely vocal about gun laws following the attack, were paid crisis actors.
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"Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen," he wrote in his message.
Leary said he had never before spoken to Kelly and that the email was completely unsolicited.
Here's the email. I asked for more information to back up the claim and was sent another email that linked to a YouTube conspiracy video. pic.twitter.com/VRSVOcjj3E
— Alex Leary (@learyreports) February 20, 2018
The Tampa Bay Times reports that when Leary asked Kelly to provide evidence to support his claim, he sent the reporter a link to a YouTube conspiracy video that showed Hogg being interviewed in a separate news segment in August 2017.
The interview, which was shot in California, prompted conspiracy theorists to questioned what Hogg was doing on the news in another state last year, with some branding him a "crisis actor."
Speaker of the Florida House Richard Corcoran fired Kelly in response to his offensive remarks on the two shooting survivors.
"I was shocked and angry to read the appalling email about the brave students who traveled to Tallahassee today. Representative Shawn Harrison immediately contacted me and with his full support, I terminated the employment of the individual responsible," wrote Corcoran on Twitter.
"On behalf of the entire Florida House, I sincerely apologize to the students targeted and again commend them for their courage through this unspeakable tragedy."
On behalf of the entire Florida House, I sincerely apologize to the students targeted and again commend them for their courage through this unspeakable tragedy. 2/2
— Richard Corcoran (@richardcorcoran) February 20, 2018
Rep. Harrison took to Twitter after Kelly's firing to comment on the incident as well.
"I was just made aware that my aide made an insensitive and inappropriate allegation about Parkland students today," the representative wrote. "I have spoken to him and placed him on leave until we determine an appropriate course of action. I do not share his opinion and he did so without my knowledge."
I was just made aware that my aide made an insensitive and inappropriate allegation about Parkland students today. I have spoken to him and placed him on leave until we determine an appropriate course of action. I do not share his opinion and he did so without my knowledge.
— Shawn Harrison (@Shawnfor63) February 20, 2018
Students like Hogg and Gonzalez, who have made multiple televised appearances urging lawmakers to ban assault weapons like the AR-15 used in the attack on their high school, have recently become the subject of conspiracy theories and smear campaigns from the far right.
Hogg, the son of a retired FBI agent, has been targeted by sites like The Gateway Pundit because of his father's former occupation.
"Why would the child of an FBI agent be used as a pawn for anti-Trump rhetoric and anti-gun legislation?" published the outlet. "Because the FBI is only looking to curb YOUR Constitutional rights and INCREASE their power. We've seen similar moves by them many times over. This is just another disgusting example of it."
After these theories began gaining steam online, even Senator Marco Rubio took to social media to denounce the people slandering the shooting survivors.
Claiming some of the students on tv after #Parkland are actors is the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 20, 2018
Hogg showed gratitude on Twitter for Rubio's words, responding to him with a simple "thank you."
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) February 20, 2018
- This article was initially published on AOL.com: GOP lawmaker's aide fired over offensive claims on Florida shooting survivors