Florida House aide fired for calling Parkland students 'paid actors'

An aide to a Florida House lawmaker was fired Tuesday after he said that Parkland students who were speaking out on gun control after Wednesday’s mass shooting were paid actors.

David Hogg, one of the survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, has become a strong voice against pro-gun campaigners.

The media attention has made Hogg the subject of a smear campaigns and blatantly fallacious conspiracy theories.

"I'm not a crisis actor," Hogg told CNN's Anderson Cooper on AC360 on Tuesday. "I'm someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that."

"I'm not acting on anybody's behalf," the 17-year-old added.

Students Kelsey Friend (L) and David Hogg recount their stories about yesterday's mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed, on February 15, 2018 in Parkland, Florida.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Critics have labeled him a "pawn" for anti-gun campaigners, or have alleged him of being "coached" by his father who is a former FBI agent. Some have even gone to the extent of calling him a "crisis actor" who is paid to argue for gun laws. 

A Florida House lawmaker's aide was kicked out of his job on Tuesday after he claimed that students from Douglas High, where the massacre took place, were merely actors paid to speak against current gun laws. 

Benjamin Kelly, an aide to Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison, emailed Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay saying that two of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who appeared on CNN were fake and not really survivors of the shooting.

"Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen,” Kelly reportedly emailed the publication.

When Leary asked Kelly for proof, he sent a secondary email which stated that the same student who appeared on CNN was on camera in another state at a shooting site.

Kelly's email allegedly said, "There is a clip on youtube that shows Mr. Hogg out in California. (I guess he transferred?)" 

As a barrage of conspiracy theories flooded the media and the internet on Tuesday, US Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, defended the student on Twitter.

"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," Rubio wrote.

Hogg has proven himself to be a veritable firebrand along with his classmates who have been outspoken about the urgent need for fresh gun restrictions ever since they witnessed the horrific massacre at their alma mater last week.

Quite a few memes and YouTube videos are making obscure claims that some students are "actors" who are paid to visit disaster sites and are working with some globalist forces who intended to grab guns from citizens of the United States. 

Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), flanked by his family, speaks to supporters at a primary night rally on March 15, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Angel Valentin/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Rep. Shawn Harrison explained in a tweet that he has “placed [Kelly] on leave until we determine an appropriate course of action."

He added that he doesn't “share his opinion and he did so without my knowledge.”

In response to Harrison's tweet, Kelly claimed on Twitter that Harrison has been  “terminated from the State House” because he “tried to inform a reporter of information relating to his story regarding a school shooting. This was not my responsibility. I meant no disrespect to the students or parents of Parkland.”

Kelly also added that Rep. Harrison “is an honest and respectable man. In no way should be held responsible for my error in judgment.”

Keeping with Twitter's strict policies, Kelly's Twitter account was later taken down.

Nekhi Charlemagne writes a message on a cross setup in a makeshift memorial in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 19, 2018 in Parkland, Florida.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republican Richard Corcoran, Florida House Speaker, said that he “was shocked and angry to read [Kelly’s] appalling email about the brave students who traveled to Tallahassee today,” and claimed that because of Harrison's support, he could fire Kelly and send out an apology on behalf of the House.

Multiple conspiracy theorists online have claimed that survivors or victims who make appearances on television are paid actors.

Kelly tweeted post his firing: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

David Hogg, 17, head of the student TV station, described filming classmates during shooting "in case they died" (Source: Twitter)

Hogg criticized those who said that he was a fake and asserted that it was disturbing that Trump Jr. supported such claims.

"Unlike the people who are tweeting that stuff about me and my dad, I haven't lost hope in America and my dad hasn't either," said Hogg with his father by his side.

When asked whether he is in favor of repealing the Second Amendment, Hogg responded by saying he doesn't "want to take a constitutional right away from American citizens."

He expressed his belief that Americans who are mentally stable and don't have any major prior convictions can own a gun and are "not going to go out and commit these atrocities."

"We have a right to live just as we have a right to bear arms," he said.

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